Making the Women, Peace and Security Agenda Matter in Baucau Municipality: Advocate Bendita de Jesus
Enhancing women’s meaningful leadership and participation in state-building and development in Timor-Leste.
After attending UN Security Resolution Council (UNSCR) Leadership Programme for Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in 2018 led by NGO Ba Futuru with UN Women’s technical support funded by the Government of Japan, Bendita de Jesus with her associate women activist, Elisabeth Soares, immediately established an advocacy group to support women, girls and men to advocate for and defend human rights.
Bendita, who is now the founder of WPS in Baucau municipality and the director of the local organization Unidade Feto ba Dezenvolvimentu (Women Unite for Development) working under the vision to strengthening the prosperity of community’s life said, "Prior to attending this program, we were unsure of finding ways to do advocacy. Now we know how to organize people to do advocacy or march for peace. Through the sequences of training, this has boosted our ability and self-confidence that encourages us to take action.”
Baucau municipal WPS advocacy group consists of 28 members, representing organizations for women survivors from the past conflict, youth and people with disability. Their group has been recognized as part of the journey to the development in Baucau municipality. They have been part of the civil society trimestral meetings, organized by the municipal administration and the authorities are well aware of their actions.
They have taken various advocacy actions in response to human right violations in the community since they established, “in February 2019, together with the cleaners working at the Baucau hospital who didn’t receive their salary for three months, we organized a live press conference in the RTTL national television channel,” said Bendita. The advocacy they organized, brought a fruitful result as the Ministry of Health made the payment in the following day. Beside this achievement, in March 2019, the group also organized another press conference to call for the local leaders’ attention to the confrontation between the youth groups that caused the public difficult access to public transportation, as well as heavily impacting the vendors’ activity in Baucau. This resulted in getting the attention of the National Director for Community Conflict Prevention and PNTL to organize discussions between the youth groups and continue with monitoring the conflict zone until the situation returns to normal.
Baucau WPS group has been partnered with the 15 organization and also has been supported by a UN Women’s beneficiary partner Belun NGO from the Government of Japan’s funding for capacity building for the members to enhance the ability on the conflict resolution. With the active participation of members, after the training the members continue to provide the training for the community, including to those leaders in the decision-making level. Bendita noted, “In the UNSCR on WPS, we really learned about acknowledging the role of women in the state development. That has been really motivated us to continue the training and advocate for conflict prevention in Baucau municipality. With the training materials that we have, we continue to provide training on UNSCR 1325 and gender equality for women in the rural area, including the chief of the villages.”
From the training that has added value to their knowledge, it has created a space for the group to break barriers and social norms in the community that tend to leave vulnerable groups behind. "We are now starting to work closely with the LGBTI community. Personally, I’m proud to have provided assistance to others to be confident as they passed through various discrimination from the community’s stereotype. From the training and support we offered, we can see the change of participants’ self-confidence, and ability to speak in public regarding their situation. By being aware of others’ situation, they start to extend support to others who face discrimination and violence,” added Bendita.
As a woman activist for human rights, who works to advance women’s right in Timor-Leste, Bendita always ensures to engage herself actively in the advocacy campaigns to share the messages that speak up on violence against women and girls. Violence against women and girls is the most common form of gender-based violence.