Timor-Leste’s annual Peace Jam conference, supported by ChildFund in partnership with local partner Ba Futuru, promotes a more peaceful and inclusive future – built and shaped by youth.
Estagio, 21, is a member of a youth organisation in Lautem Municipality. He says violence between martial arts groups is a huge issue for young people in his community.
“Lots of my friends are involved in fighting and are getting in trouble and destroying their future,” he says.
Earlier this year, Estagio attended Peace Jam with 120 other young people from youth groups and high schools across Timor-Leste. The two-day conference – spearheaded by young people – focused on creating and promoting peace. This year’s theme was Innovative Youths: Youths that inspire other youth in peacemaking.
Estagio participated in trainings and workshops, learning valuable skills through hands-on activities focused on positive and constructive ways of dealing with conflict. He also had the opportunity to share his experiences and suggest ideas to deescalate disputes, change attitudes and reduce violence his community.
Estagio says he has greatly benefited from attending Peace Jam. The experience has helped him identify new ways of managing stressful situations and improved his conflict resolution skills. “I learnt the true meaning of peace, why it is important and how to create it. I want to share my knowledge and let my friends know there are better ways to handle arguments,” he says.
“Peace Jam is very important for young people because it teaches us how to become more organised with our lives and how to become good citizens. It also shows us we can become changemakers and positive role models to inspire others and encourage peace.”
Timor-Leste has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 74% below the age of 35. Young people, therefore, have the potential and collective power to drive positive action and build a more harmonious society and safer future for all.
Ana, 20, is a member of Inspiring Youth Changemakers in Lautem Municipality. Like Estagio, Ana left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and hope for a more peaceful future. Hearing stories from other young people who believe peace is possible inspired Ana and sparked her desire to become a positive influence in her community.
“I plan to make some changes in my villages, such as leading youth to make or do something benefitting the whole community,” Ana says.
In a rural community in Timor-Leste, mother-of-six Sidonia is planting seeds for change. As part of a growing woman-led movement focused on building a resilient future through farming, Sidonia is cultivating her own crops to protect her family’s nutrition and livelihood. And she is on a mission to empower more women in her close-knit community in Lautem Municipality to do the same.
“I really want to encourage more women to get involved in this farming group and start cultivating their own food because our land is very fertile,” she says. “We shouldn’t be consuming imported products all the time as they contain harmful chemicals.”
Located in a remote, mountainous region, Sidonia’s community is vulnerable to the effects of climate change including drought, earthquakes, flash flooding, and storms. In her community and many others across Timor-Leste, agricultural productivity has in the past been low and many families often face food scarcity. More than 70 per centof the population of Timor-Leste depend on rain-fed agriculture as a main source of income.
ChildFund Timor-Leste is working with its local partners to support Sidonia and other women in her community to grow nutritious vegetable farms that are adaptable to the impacts of climate change. ChildFund provided training and all the essential tools and resources, including vegetable seeds, water tanks, ladders, and plastic tunnels, needed to become a successful farmer. Through the project, Sidonia learnt how to grow a range of vegetables, including green mustard, cabbage, onions, lettuces, eggplant, and spinach.
I really want to encourage more women to get involved in this farming group and start cultivating their own food because our land is very fertile. We shouldn’t be consuming imported products all the time as they contain harmful chemicals.
But Sidonia’s farm is providing more than just healthy, nourishing food for her and her children; a surplus of crops is helping to sustain her household financially, specifically the costs of sending her children to school. As part of her training, Sidonia learnt how to best monetise her harvest to generate extra income. “I plant the vegetables mostly for my family’s daily consumption, but if we have more than enough we usually sell them to earn some money,” she says. “The crop results are always great, and we have harvested many times.”
Sidonia says her newfound sisterhood of farmers is helping to bolster the wider community. “When we sell the vegetables to other people, even to our neighbours, it means we are contributing to the local economy.”
Sidonia is a passionate farmer and inspiring leader, spearheading positive and sustainable change in her community. She hopes that more women can create their own farming groups and learn more about the benefits of growing local, nutritious food. “After all,” she says, “we women are keyholders in the family because we prepare the food.”