The Government of Timor-Leste, European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), civil society organisations, and partners of the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative met today to review progress, approve the 2020 Annual Report, and seek inputs on programmatic adaptations needed to address the increased risk of violence against women and girls in the wake of recovery from COVID-19 pandemic and floods. The third meeting of the National Steering Committee was virtually organised by the Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion and the UN Resident Coordinator's Office. The meeting brought together representatives from the line Ministries, Municipalities, EU, UN agencies together with their partner organisations, and civil society.
The Spotlight Initiative started in January 2020, and has substantially contributed to preventing and responding to violence against women and girls. Over 268,000 women and girls, or 21% of the total population, have benefitted from the programme over the last year. Over 550,000 people were also reached through social media.
“I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to all the efforts you all have carried out. While all of us have face various challenges due to limited movement because of by COVID-19, sanitary health fence and the recent floods, however we have made significant progress as seen in the results presented earlier. We have welcome positive feedback not only from the secretariat in New York but also from regional level. This is a great recognition to all and I believe together with UN and European Union, we will improve implementation performance in the coming period,” stated Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion, Maria José da Fonseca Monteiro de Jesus.
As a result of community mobilisation, advocacy, system strengthening, and improved awareness, Gender Based Violence (GBV) reporting and response has increased considerably. The Spotlight partners supported over 3,500 women and girls in municipalities of focus who reported physical/sexual violence and sought legal help. More than 1,319 cases of GBV were also reported to justice officials – almost twice the number of cases compared to the previous year in these municipalities. In addition, 60 women and girl survivors of violence and their families were supported by the Spotlight Initiative through knowledge, information, and capacity building. Through behavioural change interventions, the programme also engaged and advocated with men and boys to become stronger agents of change.
In 2020, the Spotlight Initiative worked with the Government partners, including PNTL, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Trade Union Confederation, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Associação Empresarial das Mulheres, and Secretariat of State for Vocational Training to support women and girls against all forms of violence. Over 800 Public Sector representatives were trained. Partnerships were also developed with organisations working with marginalised groups, particularly people from the LGBT community and people with disabilities, to improve their access to services.
In Timor-Leste, the Initiative is being implemented by five UN agencies (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women) in collaboration with civil society and the Government partners. The programme currently supports 22 civil society projects representing 33 partner organisations at the national level and three municipalities (Viqueque, Bobonaro, and Ermera). Over USD 2.48 million have been committed to these projects. The Spotlight Initiative also supports key Government partners through technical and financial support.
The European Union Ambassador to Timor-leste said: “I am proud of the work done by the Government, the UN Agencies and the Civil Society Organisation during this first year of implementation of the Spotlight Initiative. Despite the difficult Covid19 times, many women, girls, boys, men and minority groups of society have been reached with information, training and services. GBV has not been eliminated yet, but the path has been set and the European Union continues to be strongly committed to support gender equality and women's empowerment. I know, it would be impossible to achieve this without the engagement and commitment of the Timor-Leste Government and Civil Society Organisations.”
It has been globally recognised that violence is often exacerbated in emergencies and natural disasters due to disruption of services, destruction of infrastructure, displacement, and limited access to referral services.
Despite the shutdowns and restrictions in response to COVID-19 and recent floods, action against GBV remains one of the highest priorities for the Government, United Nations, EU and partners in Timor-Leste.
"Women and girls in Timor-Leste are under greater risk of violence during COVID-19 pandemic and as a result of the floods, making them more vulnerable. The Government and key institutions have a responsibility to help ensure that people are safe, well supported and that the fundamental rights of all, especially women, girls and vulnerable groups, are effectively protected. The UN in Timor-Leste will continue working closely with the communities, the Government, and partners to address and eliminate all kinds of violence against women and girls", noted United Nations Resident Coordinator Roy Trivedy.
In response to the floods and in support of COVID-19 recovery, the Spotlight team and partners also proposed diverting some programme funds to ensure the safety of women and girls. The meeting explored redirecting over USD 500,000 from the Initiative's budget to Gender and Protection measures under Government and humanitarian partners' Joint Flood Response Plan. The proposed reprogrammed funds cover referral systems, reproductive health services and supplies, dignity kits, and psychosocial support to affected women, girls and their families.