Timor-Leste: EU-UN committed to ensuring safety and protection of women and girls during COVID crisis


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 USD1 million funding from the flagship Spotlight Initiative budget to address the increased risks of violence against women and girls in context of the pandemic.


Through the Spotlight Initiative, EU-UN country teams in consultation with partners have shifted programming to the current context that includes supporting policy, scaling up support to civil society organizations, increasing engagement with education and health sector, 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. Through the Spotlight Initiative our partners are shifting programming to the CODIV-19 context: moving services and campaigns online, scaling up support to civil society organisations on the front line 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", said Andrew Jacobs, European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

Recognizing the significant efforts needed to take steps around prevention and response against COVID-19, the Spotlight Initiative, in consultation with partners, has reprioritized efforts in order to address Violence Against Women and Girls in context of COVID-19. Of the total 2020/21 budget for the Initiative of USD 9.9 million, USD 1 million will be dedicated to:

  1. provision of critical technical assistance to 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;  
  2. risk 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; 
  3. 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, 
  4. 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. A number of factors which may lead to this violence against women and girls, particularly women and girls who are already facing barriers in their communities, for example due to a disability or illness. Women and girls face a greater risk of violence due to increased isolation in their homes given restrictions on movement outside homes, 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 the civil society. Our vital support to Timor-Leste through the Government and the 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 a 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", said Roy Trivedy, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Timor-Leste.