With the parliamentary elections only one month ahead, Plan International is working with national partner organisations including Rede Feto, Caucus, Fundasaun Patria, MOFFE, Fundasaun Alola, CNJTL and MHVF to ensure that Timor-Leste's future leaders put child protection and gender equality at the heart of their agendas.
Following a public debate on issues of child protection and gender equality organised by Plan International and partners, eight political parties have signed a declaration of commitment in which they pledge to pay particular attention to children's and women's rights. Six key points were mentioned in the declaration, including ensuring better access to politics for women, putting mechanisms in place to ensure child protection during the electoral campaigns, and ensuring that future policies respond to children's and women's needs.
The public debate and the declaration of commitment are the result of a National Women and Girls’ Conference organised by Plan International and partner organisations last May. More than 200 women and girls had gathered to draft recommendations and present them to each political parties.
A win for Women in politics
Through the declaration the political parties have committed to ensuring that women not only get easier access to politics, but also that there are no more restrictions in terms of positions available to them.
“We are very proud of this progress,” said Fatima Soares, Plan International’s Women and Girls’ Participation programme manager. “So far we have 38 percent women in the national parliament, but through this intervention we can even increase this number further in the future. Women have a strong voice and these voices need to be heard”, she added.
Women have a strong voice and these voices need to be heard.
During the debate, Idelta Maria Rodrigues, member of the national directorate of the CNRT party, stressed that, “empowering women is one of our priorities. Especially on the local government level more women need to be encouraged to take on important roles and positions.”
Protecting children from harm during elections
Addressing child protection during the electoral campaign became an important issue as political parties have involved children in previous campaigns. Monitoring results showed that children were often recruited to distribute promotional material such as flyers or T-Shirts. In some cases children had been involved in car accidents during street parades.
On this issue, Mariano Assanami Sabino, President of the PD party, pointed out that “all political parties have to pay close attention to the issue of exploitation of children during the campaigns as this exploitation is prohibited. However, I think youth who are 14 or older should be able to come to a campaign rally with their parents as they can learn something about the political parties and our political system.”
Building new partnerships for success
Monitoring the implementation of the declaration will be key to ensuring the effective protection of children and empowerment of women in Timor-Leste.
That is why Plan International and its partner organisations will be working together with the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice in Timor-Leste (PDHJ) to observe and ensure that political parties fulfil their commitments on child protection and gender equality in their programmes and actions.