Skip to content

SFCG’s Youth Facilitates Youth Forum in Timor-Leste

2011 August 9

First Annual Youth Forum 2010

This week, SFCG’s Youth Radio for Peacebuilding Project will facilitate the Second Annual National Youth Forum in Dili, Timor-Leste. The forum is organized in conjunction with International Youth Day , in cooperation with the Secretary of State for Youth and Sport.  It will bring together fifty youth leaders (between the ages of 17 and 29) from the country’s 13 districts. The forum will provide a platform for youth to elaborate, discuss, and develop solutions to the most pressing development and peacebuilding challenges for youth in Timor-Leste. It will include youth from marginalized districts, empowering all participants through the creation of dialogue mechanisms with decision-makers.

SFCG has been working in Timor-Leste since April 2010, focusing on youth issues. Timorese youth face many challenges. The unemployment rate is over 50% and future prospects can seem bleak. Young people often lack community leadership, marketable job skills and are politically marginalized.

Another major challenge facing youth is illiteracy. Only 68% of youth are literate in Tetum and 17% in Portuguese, the two official languages. Portuguese is still the language of government, despite not being spoken by most of the population. The re-adoption of Portuguese was an attempt to fashion a Timorese identity after the nation won independence from Indonesia. Rather than lead to unity, however, the emphasis on Portuguese has led young people to feel disconnected and excluded from the nation-building process.  These relatively low literacy rates also mean that newspapers go unread and youth are susceptible to political manipulation because they lack reliable information.

In order to address these issues, SFCG has begun producing a radio show called Babadok Rebenta (“The Drums of Peace”). We work with 15 community radio stations across Timor. New episodes are broadcast every Saturday.  The issues that the show focuses on came out of last year’s Youth Forum. Over 80 young people, from all 13 districts of the country, participated in the forum. They identified areas that needed change and their feedback has informed the curriculum of the program.

Participants at last year's youth forum

The first day of this year’s forum will be held at the Secretariat of the Youth Council in Farol, Dili. On the second day, the forum will  be opened by the Secretary of State for Youth and Sport, Miguel M. Gonçaves Manetelu.Youth participants in the forum will be joined by 100 additional youth and guests. The program will include keynote speeches and Q&A sessions with the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ms. Ameerah Haq, as well as with the Commissioner of the National Electoral Commission , Ms. Maria Angelita Sarmento. Their remarks will focus on the withdrawal of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor Leste , and on upcoming national elections in 2012. U.S. Ambassador Judith Fergin is also expected to address the forum

In the afternoon, the core of fifty youth participants will discuss issues of concern to youth (e.g. education, unemployment, domestic violence, martial arts and gang violence, the role of youth in peacebuilding, and Security issues) with members of the government. In small groups, moderators will help facilitate solutions-oriented discussion. Several government representatives, including the Secretary of State for Security, the Secretary of State for Gender Equality, and the Minister of Education, will participate in the forum.

The third day of the forum is August 12, International Youth Day. During a planned city tour the participants will present their recommendations and proposed solutions to representatives of the government and the parliament. This is in keeping with the underlying goal of the forum, to promote youth civic engagement in the democratic process. Each participant will be expected return home and share their experiences from the forum with members of their communities and commit to making a positive contribution to Timor-Leste’s peacebuilding process.

Read more about our work in Timor-Leste!

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS