Dili, May 13, 2014 — On May 9 in Dili, The Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste, in partnership with Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) and Secretariat of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI), launched the Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) program. Funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the program is an eight year intervention aimed to reduce the proportion of and better meet the needs of women and children who experience violence.
Despite equality before the law, one of the highest rates of female parliamentarians in the region, and a number of important legislative advances in recent years, Timorese women still struggle to lead equal, safe and, healthy lives in a post-independent Timor-Leste. The country has a high prevalence rate for violence against women, most of which is domestic violence, with as many as half of women in certain studies reporting that they feel unsafe in their relationship with their husband, and a quarter having experienced violence from an intimate partner. Today, women in Timor-Leste who experience violence are faced with a system that does not always understand or respond adequately to their complex needs or protect them when they suffer ongoing violence. This can lead to re-victimization of women, though there are laws and policies in place that should be protecting them.
“Long-term sustained support and a cross-sector response is needed to properly tackle violence against women, adequately support women affected by violence, and change behavior,” said Asia Foundation’s Country Representative in Timor-Leste Susan Marx at the EVAWP launch.
The EVAW program will strengthen existing government and non-government services for women and children affected by violence, working with the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
“We must remember that the needs of women who experience violence should be our priority”, said Minister for Social Solidarity Sra. Isabel Amaral Guterres at the program launch. “Our services and programs should be proven through good quality support to victims. We must ensure that services support women to meet their basic needs for safety, shelter, livelihoods and physical and emotional well-being”.
The program will also support research and national strategies for prevention, acknowledging the important work done to date by the government and civil society to prevent violence against women and children.
“Providing support to victims is not enough”, said Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality Sra. Idelta Rodrigues. “We also need to work on violence before it happens”.
The clear commitment from the Government of Timor-Leste and the strong engagement of civil society in responding to violence against women both provide considerable opportunity for this program to make a difference in the lives of Timorese women. Collaboration with key government and state agencies as well as civil society will be critical to success of this program.