Women, girls, and young people from a Timor-Leste municipality are making their voices heard regarding the Ministry of Health's proposed new family planning policy that would threaten their future by limiting access to contraception to married couples.
In August, Plan International and partners worked together to organize a municipal workshop, ensuring they received all the information available regarding the draft policy.
Away from the capital, people from rural areas, especially women and girls, are often the least informed about such policies. Yet, with a rural population of more than 70 percent, they must have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
At the workshop, village chiefs, high school students, young women, and men gathered and listened to the details of the draft policy, before receiving an actual copy.
The participants then divided into groups to discuss what they had just heard, and formed recommendations to the government in an official statement.
"Teenage pregnancy is a big problem in our communities, and this policy will only exacerbate the problem, instead of addressing it," said 18-year-old Odelia. "We need an action plan from the new government to tackle teenage pregnancy. This must start with listening to our recommendations and revising this draft policy."
Elfia, a 19-year-old girl, also explained how this policy could seriously harm the economic situation of young women.
"When women don't have access to modern forms of contraception, they end up having children very frequently, which doesn't give them any opportunity to get skills and have a good economic situation," she said. "Women need access to all forms of contraception in order to secure a better future for their family."