The Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste amplifies diverse and marginalized voices to eliminate violence against children, women and girls

To change behaviours and achieve maximum impact it is essential to incorporate insights from a wide range of groups and individuals

Including voices from diverse groups of Timor-Leste’s population – those with disabilities, members of the LGBTI community, children and adolescents – is essential in developing strategies to eliminate violence in the country.

Bobonaro Municipality, Timor-Leste: Violence against children, women and girls is a grave violation of human rights, yet its scourge has left no corner of the globe untouched. Here in Timor-Leste, domestic violence is considered a private matter, and women, girls and children who experience such abuse often do not report it.

The Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) to eliminate all forms of violence against children, women and girls. In Timor-Leste, the initiative is being implemented over three years by five UN agencies – UNICEF, UN Women, ILO, UNDP and UNFPA. This is also in partnership with the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion.

For UNICEF, its main role is leading the component of the prevention strategy concerned with social and behavior change communication (SBCC). As one of the initial first steps, a comprehensive SBCC strategy is being developed, and is taking into account voices from some of the most marginalized and diverse voices across the country

“I really appreciate being listened to, and my opinion sought on how to prevent domestic violence,” said Juvita de Jesus, one of those who took part in the consultations.

Close to 60 people, including community leaders, community members, representatives from community-based organizations and government officials have been consulted in three municipalities during the process of developing the strategy. Their views are being sought on the incidence of violence and their experiences and ideas on how to prevent it.

“It’s important for all men to avoid violence and to be a good example for their children,” said Juliao Marito de Jesus, the Post Administrator of Letefoho. “We all are responsible to create an environment that is free of violence.”

The Spotlight Initiative is being implemented in three target municipalities – Bobonaro, Ermera and Viqueque. According to the Demographic and Health Survey 2016 (DHS 2016), more than 94 per cent of women in Ermera Municipality believe husbands are justified in hitting their wives, while more than 80 per cent of women there who have experienced domestic or intimate partner violence have never sought help or told anyone about their abuse. In Viqueque Municiaplity, that number is almost 89 per cent.

“The prevalence of violence against children, girls and women has a profound impact on families and society. It is only through concerted and joint action by the government, partners such as the UN and EU and community leaders and members themselves can we stop this scourge,” said Valérie Taton, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste. “This is why it is important to listen to communities, and especially those who are the most vulnerable to violence and seek their views on how we can work together to prevent all forms of violence.”

The SBCC strategy will provide a broad strategic framework for all actions that will support changing behavior and preventing violence against girls, children and women.

Written by
Jemma Galvin
UN entities involved in this initiative
International Labor Organization
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations Children’s Fund