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Power Up: Addressing Gender-based Violence and Safeguarding Freedom of Expression

Program Year: 2024

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender-based violence, leading to the closure of shelters, weakened support systems, and diminished economic opportunities, rights, and security for women and girls. In Asia and the Pacific, rates of intimate partner violence surpass the global average of 27%, and 75% of women in the region experienced sexual harassment but rarely reported the cases, according to the WHO and UN Women.

The Asia Foundation’s regional program, Power Up, funded by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), spans across Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and the Pacific Islands. Its primary goal is to empower women and girls by enhancing their access and influence in combating gender-based violence and advocating for freedom of expression. This is achieved through strengthening connections between women’s organizations and networks with the government, enabling them to advocate for more inclusive policymaking that addresses the needs of underrepresented groups. Power Up amplifies the voices and actions of women leaders and activists across the program countries and aspires to reduce gender-based violence, safeguard freedom of expression, and strengthen intersectional movement building.

Seven women gather around four laptops in a conference room

From January 31 – February 3, 2024, The Asia Foundation’s Indonesia office held a kickoff meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia, to strengthen coordination and synergy with the program’s partners, Forum Pengada Layanan (FPL) and Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia (KPI). The kickoff meeting was to align program implementation details with organizations and their networks. In addition to implementation strategies for each work area at national and local levels, the program’s partners received materials related to financial reporting methods and compliance in implementing the program.

A large group of people contributing to Power Up pose for a photo in front of a board of ideas.

Two weeks earlier, on January 19, 2024, The Asia Foundation’s Timor Leste office initiated a kickoff meeting with its four partner organizations: CODIVA, FMDC, MOFFE, and CBRNTL. The meeting was a significant step towards addressing critical issues with the feminist movement in Timor Leste and broader human rights issues in the country. Participants discussed the multifaceted challenges and complexities surrounding freedom of expression and human rights and the possibility of tackling those issues under the Power Up program. Activists highlighted the prevalence of online bullying when advocating for the rights of vulnerable groups such as the LGBTQI+ community. They expressed growing concerns about the safety of social media for activists and how they face significant backlash, which takes a toll on their mental health. Focusing on solutions to lessen the burden on these individuals, discussions highlighted the need for safe advocacy practices online through leveraging the support of ally organizations under Power Up.

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