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16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

“Women from remote villages in Timor-Leste hope that their husbands will learn to say ‘I love you’ to their wife and children. This statement is simple, but very valuable in building intimacy and peace in the household.” Female community member in Aileu Municipality

Several studies have shown the results of high levels of gender-based and domestic violence in Timor-Leste. The large-scale 2009/10 Demographic and Health Survey found 25%-38% of women had experienced physical or sexual domestic violence in the previous 12 months.

Equally alarmingly it reported that 86% of women and 80% of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for neglecting her duties such as burning the food, refusing to have intercourse with him, or neglecting the children. 

As part of the 16 Days Campaign, Plan International the local partner organiations FADA and Fokupers, World Vision, and the Secretary of State for the Support and Socio-Economic Promotion of Women (SEM) launched a local advocacy event to amplify the voices of women and girls to influence families and communities to take action on gender-based and domestic violence under the motto “End Violence against Women and Children at Home and at Schools Now!”.

The activity covered four villages (in Tetun: suku) with more than 250 women and men, girls and local leaders participating.

The activity aimed at forming an understanding about the impact of domestic violence amongst communities in rural Timor-Leste and the importance of ending it. This activity used methods of reflection, discussion and interactive visioning to promote the idea of happy, participatory, healthy and prosperous families.

Male Suku Council members were invited to participate in the 16 Days Campaign as the WoGiP project aims to involve them to directly reflect on their actions and initiate inclusive change.

"Women must start now to participate, speak and act!"

- Chefe Aldeia (hamlet chief)

As Rozita, a member of the Suku council in a village in Aileu Municipality, points out at the 16 Days event, men in rural areas are struggling to express their feelings towards their wives and children which is important for the harmony and peace in the family.

"Families, communities and local leaders need to treat women and men equally. Men need to give women opportunities, hear their voices and become a good partner for their wife."

         - Rozita, community member in Aileu Municipality

The campaign closed with a march in Aileu Vila, the capital of Aileu Municipality with the message that violence against women and children destroys families and the future of the children and thereby harms the development process of the country as a whole.

Girls from Aileu joined the march to end gender-based violence

The President of the Board of Women's Association FADA stressed in her speech that in Timor-Leste, a country with a strong majority of Catholics, Christmas is a time to reflect and change behavior.

Plan International Timor-Leste with its local partners will continue to build public awareness on the participation of women and girls, and support efforts to end violence against women and girls at home and at school.