Delegation of the European Union to Timor-Leste

Thalia Soares, a young timorese woman strongly committed to take actions to fight against climate change

12/11/2021 - 11:46
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I always had a strong passion for climate change issues and environment protection ever since I was in high school, when we did a school base project of cleaning the environment in the community area. All of my classmates and I were actively engaged with the project, which aimed at raising the community’s awareness to the environmental issues that we have in Timor-Leste.

I also played a role for Dili Model United Nations at the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion, where I represented Germany in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I loved the simulation of the UN debate on climate change issues with the representatives of each country, where we showed/improved our negotiation and leadership skills. That boosted my passion for fighting against climate change, especially in Timor-Leste, and I decided to study Environmental Engineering at President University, in Indonesia.

Timor-Leste is my home country, and it is still susceptible to natural disasters, vulnerable to external shocks and fragile environments, and the impacts of climate change. This is the reason why I wanted to focus my career development on climate change issues. I am currently working at Plan International Timor-Leste as a Project Coordinator of Climate Change Adaptation under the current EU-funded project on strengthening the capacity of local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Climate Change Adaptation (CCA). In this project, I manage activities in the field, organise and lead community meetings and workshops, facilitate dissemination of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)/CCA messages and work closely with village councils and related project committees. Through these path I became a climate activist. Not only I have a passion for climate change issues and environmental protection, but I also work in an environment where I enjoy doing my job.

From my experience, youth participation is minimal at the community level, especially in rural areas, due to the low awareness of climate change issues. To support and increase youth participation in the Green-Blue Alliance (GBA), we should adopt the approach from the Plan International program called Girls Alliance (GA). Within the GA project, Plan empowers girls and young women, boys and young men, by:

  • consulting with sponsor children in municipalities of Aileu and Ainaro about the program and mobilizing them to establish girls' groups in their community;
  • provide leadership training to GA members and boys to improve their capacity building;
  • developing a campaign and advocacy strategy addressing issues that affect girls; and
  • providing opportunity to GA members to organize and implement their activities (Public campaign and Media campaign)

To promote youth participation in the context of the implementation of the GBA, we should work with GA to engage active young generations, especially young women and girls, from schools of Aileu, Ainaro and other municipalities of Timor-Leste, by providing leadership training to enhance their capacity building, and develop advocacy strategies to address climate change issues. We should also implement climate change seminars with the government and NGOs to help youngsters at the municipality level to build their confidence to speak out and take actions on climate change issues.

The two pillars of the GBA are Climate Ambition, Resilience and Recovery, and Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Development. Climate change impacts all of us and the environment and is a significant threat to the national and global economy. Both aspects are essential. GBA can be further strengthened by:

  1. continuing to raise awareness for climate change impacts in the community, especially the rural areas, and ensuring the involvement of local and national authorities for green initiatives;
  2. reinforcing the national capacity to develop environmental resilience to climate change by conducting socialisation, workshop, and training actions;
  3. improving the preparation of climate risk and vulnerability assessments;
  4. integrating climate change adaptation actions in the development of policies, plans, and programs; and
  5. mobilizing domestic and foreign financial resources through advocating better management of climate change funding. 

The EU funded the project "Enhancing the capacity of CSOs to raise awareness and promote initiatives that address climate change and its impact on sustainable development in Timor-Leste", which started in March 2019 and will end in February 2022.

The overall objective of this project is to actively promote CSOs activities and policies that are gender-sensitive and socially inclusive in preparing for and responding to the impacts of climate change in Timor-Leste.

These are some of the achievements accomplished by this project:

  • raise of knowledge, awareness, and practice on CCA by increasing CSOs participation in training actions from 13% to 88%;
  • communities, including vulnerable groups, have an improved awareness of the effects of climate change and implement local level climate-smart responses and adaptive actions (Action Plan);
  •  8 schools have successfully  completes the Hazard Vulnerability Capacity Assessment (HVCA)17 out of 17 target villages have completed an HVCA;
  • A number of national-level technical workshops were carried out with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, CSOs, and other stakeholders to support DRR/CCA curriculum package development ahead of the implementation of pilot experiences in the selected schools.
  • we have implemented nursery plants in 13 target villages of Aileu and Ainaro.

So far, we have been receiving many positive feedback from the community, national and local authorities. If we build upon this project in the next seven years, the dissemination of CCA messages and its mitigation actions will be widely spread in Timor-Leste.