Specialized Training for Frontline Social Services Workers Expands Its Reach Across Timor-Leste

Program Year: 2019

In one of Asia’s youngest and poorest nations, Timor-Leste’s social services are in high demand.

Local crisis shelters, youth organizations, health facilities, disabled people’s organizations and other frontline services perform vital work in supporting vulnerable people and communities. However, training and professional development opportunities for Timorese people working in frontline social service jobs are extremely limited.

To support the development of a skilled workforce of social service professionals in Timor-Leste, The Asia Foundation has designed a specialized Certificate III in Social Services course, which has just kicked off its third year of delivery.

The training is the first of its kind in Timor-Leste, created as part of the Australian Government’s Nabilan Program ending violence against women, and in collaboration with a local vocational training provider ISAT. The course covers a range of topics including gender equality, LGBTI rights, legal frameworks, disability issues, counselling, case management and self-care. Students complete 100 hours of class over a six-month period, with student alumni from the two previous years now returning as facilitators.

According to Nabilan Program Services Manager Johana Dewi, the course is providing vital support to frontline workers from many different sectors in Timor-Leste.

“The training is an important way to increase their knowledge, to fill gaps in their knowledge, and also to give them recognition for the valuable work they are already doing,” she said. “It also provides a space for workers across different sectors and organizations to build connections and stronger relationships.”

Alumni of the course described these stronger relationships as enabling better care for clients. “I now no longer feel alone in doing this job. I have connections with others who can help my clients better for certain issues,” one former student said.

This year, the Nabilan Program has been able to expand its offering beyond Timor-Leste’s capital of Dili, inviting students from across Timor-Leste. Of 25 selected students, almost half are from regional areas such as Oecussi, Maliana, Suai, Viqueque and Manufahi. Students of this year’s course are already reporting that the training is helping them to identify the structural elements of gender-based violence. “…[W]e see it as a tree that we need to define exactly its root, branch, leaves, and fruit. To stop the violence totally we must cut out its root so that it can’t grow again, and we must also eliminate inequality to end the violence.”

Nabilan is an 8-year Australian aid initiative implemented by The Asia Foundation in Timor-Leste on behalf of the Australian Government. The program commenced in April 2014, with Phase II continuing from April 2018 until June 2022.

Related locations: Timor-Leste
Related programs: Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality
Related topics: Gender-Based Violence, Nabilan

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