European Union and United Nations are committed to protecting women and girls in Timor-Leste during COVID-19 crisis

April 14, 2020

DILI, Timor-Leste - During this unprecedented COVID-19 global emergency, the European Union and United Nations remain committed to protecting and supporting women and girls in Timor-Leste and have dedicated $1 million funding from the flagship Spotlight Initiative budget to address the increased risks of violence against women and girls during the pandemic. 

Through the Spotlight Initiative, EU-UN country teams are consulting with partners to shift programming to the current context. This includes supporting policy, scaling up support to civil society organizations, increasing engagement with the education and health sectors, and raising awareness of the increased risks of violence against women and girls. 

“Coronavirus has a far-reaching impact on everyone, on their health, their socio-economic wellbeing, and on their rights," said Andrew Jacobs, European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste. "Through the Spotlight Initiative, our partners are shifting programming to the COVID-19 context: moving services and campaigns online, scaling up support to civil society organizations on the frontline of response, ensuring that services not only stay open but are made more accessible to groups often left behind. In this unprecedented and unpredictable global crisis, the European Union remains committed to protecting and supporting women in Timor-Leste."

Recognizing the significant efforts needed to prevent and respond to COVID-19, the Spotlight Initiative, in consultation with partners, has re-prioritized efforts to address violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19. Of the total 2020/21 budget of $9.9 million, $1 million will be dedicated to: 

(a)    provision of critical technical assistance to the development of policies and programmes (including those related to quarantine facilities) and coordination of violence against women and girls efforts in the context of COVID-19;
(b)    communications to raise awareness of the increased risk of violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19 and how communities can act to prevent violence;
(c)    support civil society organizations to ensure that women and girls can contact service providers (whether the police, health or social support) and to ensure services remain open and accessible to people who are most vulnerable (for example people with disabilities); and,
(d)    adjusting engagement with schools and parents to promote healthy and respectful relationships in the new context of remote learning and strengthening support to women’s and local organizations to continue their important work to advance women’s rights while protecting the health and safety of their staff and community partners. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, the Spotlight Initiative notes with great concern the reports of increased domestic and intimate partner violence - particularly among those who are already facing barriers in their communities, for example due to disability or illness. Women and girls face a greater risk of violence due to increased isolation in their homes given current restrictions on movement, disruptions to livelihoods, closure of schools and the tensions that will increase in families and households as a result. These risks are also high in Timor-Leste: during this lockdown period, women are at much greater risk of domestic violence than before because they are confined in an environment where the stress level is high. 

“Addressing gender-based violence is at the centre of our programming on COVID-19 response. We all have a responsibility to act, from individuals to government, from the UN to partners, and from businesses to civil society," said Roy Trivedy, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste. "Our vital support to Timor-Leste through the Government and civil society will continue to address violence against women and girls, including the new challenges that COVID-19 presents. This is a moment for Timor-Leste to act in solidarity and turn this crisis into the momentum to achieve the Global Goals. The United Nations will continue ensuring that the people we serve emerge stronger from this crisis and the fundamental rights of every girl, woman, and the most vulnerable are protected.”


In the Pacific, violence against women and girls is particularly worrying. In some countries in the region, 76 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. Most affected are marginalised women and girls who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. 

In Timor-Leste, the Spotlight Initiative was launched on 5 March 2020. It is being implemented through five UN agencies (UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, and ILO), in support of the Government, and in close collaboration with civil society, the World Health Organization, International Organization for Migration and the UN Human Rights Advisor’s Unit.

The overall vision of the Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste is that women and girls enjoy their right to a life free of violence, within an inclusive and gender equitable Timor-Leste. The programme is aligned to the Timor-Leste "National Action Plan on Gender based Violence (2017-2021)" and National SDG Roadmap. It will contribute to the elimination of domestic violence/intimate partner violence (DV/IPV) by responding to the needs of women and girls and addressing the underlying causes of violence against women and girls, using a multi-sectoral and intersectional approach across the ecological model. 

This will involve strengthening and widening partnerships and solidarity across civil society, Government, media, private sector and development partners. The Initiative will empower individuals, equip institutions at national, sub-national and community levels with the policies, systems and mechanisms to prevent and respond to VAWG, and encourage the public to challenge harmful gender norms. Using innovative approaches, the Spotlight Initiative will build a social movement of diverse advocates and agents of change for gender equality and social inclusion. 

The Spotlight initiative deploys targeted, large-scale investments to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.

For media inquiries, please contact

Marina Rini, Communication Officer, EU Delegation

Ahmed Saleem, Communications Officer, UN Resident Coordinator’s Office

Lead image: Jin Ni/UNDP

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