Stories from change-makers in Timor-Leste

Santina Cristina Etelfina
Sponsored Girl In Timor Leste
Not quite four feet tall, Santina barely reached the prime minister’s shoulders.
But looking up at one of the most important leaders in her country, a man who literally towered over her, Santina wasn’t intimidated. She was excited.

“When I took over for the prime minister I felt important and powerful."

Santina wants more girls to experience that same feeling. And she has big plans for her own future. “I now want to be prime minister … I want my voice to be heard."
Meet the future prime minister
Girl In Timor Leste With Basketball
In Timor-Leste, young leaders like Cristina are making their voices heard as they fight for gender equality and advocate for girls’ rights.
Through Plan International Timor-Leste’s Women and Girls’ Participation project, Cristina has met political leaders and gained confidence in her public speaking abilities.

One of Cristina’s key areas of focus is ending child marriage and teenage pregnancy in her community. Fortunately, her family is very supportive of her work. “My family support me to the absolute maximum, encouraging me to take part in the training Plan offers because it can help my life in the future.”

Cristina is encouraging girls to get involved with the decisions that affect them. “The change I really want to see, is for a woman to become the president of Timor-Leste.”

Thinking about her future, Cristina hopes to be a leader herself one day. “I have the capacity to lead and have a good mentality. I really want to continue my studies, specifically about politics and one day, I hope to become a minister for my nation.”
Meet more young people advocating for change
Girl Studying In Timor Leste
Studying from home is challenging for students everywhere — but for girls like Etelfina, who don’t have access to technology, it’s nearly impossible.
“It is not easy for us to study from home, especially for those of us who live in rural areas,” Etelfina says. “For people who live in the city, they can learn from TV and the internet, while rural communities often lack electricity and technology, making it hard for young people."

It’s also hard to make time for studying, with all her responsibilities at home. As the eldest daughter born into a farming family, Etelfina is responsible for looking after her younger siblings, doing household chores and helping out on the farm. She looks forward to life returning to the way it was before.

Through our global COVID-19 response, Plan has provided resources for girls like Etelfina, so that they aren’t left behind. We’ve distributed thousands of home learning kits and solar radios, so students can listen to broadcasts of their lessons from home.

“As many other girls, I feel unsafe with everything closed. It’s difficult for girls to get menstrual and hygiene products. Also, it is hard to access health services because everyone is currently focusing on COVID-19 rather than other things,” Etelfina says.

“However, I have taken part in training sessions run by Plan International to learn about my reproductive health rights and gender-based violence. This training helped me learn how to protect myself, so now I know how to report cases of violence if something happens to me. It helps me feel confident that I can protect myself.”
Learn more about our Education work

Plan International has been working in Timor-Leste since 2001.

Our work in Timor-Leste

Sponsored Girl In Timor Leste
Office & operations

Plan Timor-Leste’s country office is located in Dili, with program unit offices in Aileu and Ainaro.

Technical areas:

Health, youth empowerment and disaster risk management and preparedness.

Number of sponsored children

As of June 2022, people like you sponsor 18,844 children in Timor-Leste through Plan International.

Why sponsor with Plan?

Gender equality is a fight we must all take on together. Through sponsorship, you can change lives and create long-term impact in communities.

The full circle of Fate

When you sponsor a child through Plan, you form an incredible friendship.

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But that’s just the beginning. With Plan, you also have the unique opportunity to:

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Send them birthday gifts and cards.

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Give them special holiday presents called Little Treasures.

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Subscribe them to Plan’s educational kids’ magazine, Sunny Days.

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Arrange a visit (pending any travel restrictions), with individual travel assistance from us.

Each gift offering is safely hand-delivered by us, and given to your child with personalized cards from you. It’s likely that the child you sponsor will have never seen anything like these gifts, and with the exception of Little Treasures they’re available year-round to make the bond between you and your sponsored child even stronger.

Meet a child to sponsor