Gender trainings in remote districts of Timor-Leste

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Dili - With support from UNIFEM, the office of the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI) in Timor-Leste organized a number of activities during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence from 25 November to 10 December, including a national awareness-raising campaign on a new domestic violence legislation and an international conference on women in post-conflict societies.

A series of trainings on gender issues was undertaken in some of the remotest districts of the country - where many women are unaware of their legal rights and have difficulties in accessing services and justice. The first training session took place in Oecuessi, a coastal enclave situated 80 km within the Indonesian territory of West Timor, with a focus on educating the community about the new laws that make domestic violence a punishable crime.

Implemented by SEPI, the national public education campaign is part of a joint MDG Achievement Fund programme that is coordinated by UNIFEM. It involves national and international non-governmental organizations, the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) and United Nations agencies. In a speech on this occasion, Alfredo Pires, the Acting Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, underlined that such inter-organizational collaboration was necessary to achieve the goal of ending domestic violence, a widespread problem in this traditionally patriarchal society.

During the long years of conflict in Timor-Leste, women became deliberate targets of sexual violence. In the capital Dili, SEPI hosted delegates from Liberia and Northern Ireland for a conference on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, a key document that addresses the issue of women, peace and security. The conference acknowledged the importance of increasing women's participation in decision-making at all levels of conflict prevention, peace processes and recovery.

For more information, contact Jennifer Ward, UNIFEM Timor-Leste, jennifer.ward[at]unifem.org.