Press Release

More than 357,000 people have benefited from the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in two years, concludes National Steering Committee

23 November 2021

The Government of Timor-Leste, the European Union, the United Nations and Civil Society representatives review the implementation of the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls amid new challenges brought by COVID-19 and renew their commitment to end all forms of such violence.

DILI, 23 November 2021: The Government of Timor-Leste, the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and Civil Society representatives met today to reflect on the achievements of the Spotlight Initiative. They reviewed progress and discussed future actions to address the increased risk of violence against women and girls in the wake of recovery from COVID-19 pandemic. The fourth meeting of the National Steering Committee was organised by the Secretariat of State for Equality and Inclusion and the UN Resident Coordinator's Office. The meeting brought together representatives from different Ministries, Municipalities, the EU, UN agencies, and Civil Society representatives.

The Spotlight Initiative, which started in January 2020 and which is financed by the EU, has substantially contributed to preventing and responding to violence against women and girls. Over 357,336 women and girls, or 27% of the total population of Timor-Leste, have benefitted directly from the programme over the past two years. More than 700,000 people were also reached through social media. Spotlight is aligned with the National Action Plan on Gender Based Violence (NAP GBV) and supports the implementation of the NAP GBV at national and municipal levels. The Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion is a key government partner and Co-Chair of the National Steering Committee.

"I would like to convey my sincere appreciation for all the efforts you all have carried out. While all of us have faced various challenges due to limited movement because of COVID-19, sanitary health fence and the recent floods, but we have made significant progress, as seen in the results presented earlier. I believe together with the UN and European Union, we will improve implementation performance in the coming period," stated Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion, Maria José da Fonseca Monteiro de Jesus.

In Timor-Leste, the Initiative is being implemented by five UN agencies (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women) in collaboration with civil society and Government partners through technical and financial support. The programme currently supports 22 civil society projects representing 33 partner organisations at national level and locally in three municipalities (Bobonaro, Ermera and Viqueque). In Phase 1, Spotlight will spend USD 4 million through implementing partners.

The European Union Ambassador stated, “Ending violence against woman and girls is a priority for the European Union, both in Europe and around the world.  Gender-based violence is criminal. It’s a brutal form of discrimination and a violation of women's fundamental rights.  There can be no excuses for it. The Spotlight Initiative is a practical manifestation of the EU’s political commitment to ending the violence. In Timor-Leste such violence is a major problem, and we are pleased to work with the Government and civil society to help eliminate it.” 

Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste has worked with the Government and partners, including National Police (PNTL), Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion, Ministry of Health, Trade Union Confederation, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Associação Empresarial das Mulheres de Timor-Leste (Timor-Leste Women’s Business Association), and Secretariat of State for Vocational Training and Employment (SEFOPE) to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against women and girls. Over 800 Public Sector representatives were trained, and 33 partnerships developed with organisations working with marginalised groups, particularly people from the LGBT community and people with disabilities, to improve their access to services.

As a result of community mobilisation, advocacy, system strengthening, and improved awareness, violence against women and girls (VAWG) reporting and response have increased considerably. The Spotlight Initiative partners provided over 7,000 support actions to women and girls in municipalities of focus who reported physical/sexual violence and sought legal help. More than 1,319 cases of VAWG were reported to justice officials – almost twice the number of cases compared to the previous year in these municipalities. In addition, the Spotlight Initiative supported 435 women and girl survivors of violence and their families through knowledge, information, and capacity building. Training and information for parents is contributing to healthy and respectful relationships at home and in schools.

It has been globally recognised that violence is often exacerbated in emergencies and natural disasters due to disruption of services, destruction of infrastructure, displacement, and limited access to referral services. Despite the shutdowns and restrictions in response to COVID-19 and recent floods, action against VAWG remains one of the highest priorities for the Government, United Nations, EU and partners in Timor-Leste.

"Women and girls in Timor-Leste are under greater risk of violence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent the floods caused by Cyclone Seroja, making them more vulnerable. We are proud of the work done by the Government, the UN Agencies, Civil Society Organisations and the media during the past two years of the Spotlight Initiative. Despite difficult times, the Initiative reached many women, girls, boys, men and minority groups with information, training, and services. The UN in Timor-Leste will continue working with communities, the Government, and partners to eliminate all kinds of violence against women and girls and ensure that all people are safe, well supported and that peoples fundamental rights are effectively protected ", noted United Nations Resident Coordinator Roy Trivedy.

Timor-Leste is one of the countries that benefits from the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative with the support of the Government, civil society, and partners in the eradication of violence against women and girls. After achieving significant progress in the last 20 years since its historic independence vote, Timor-Leste has demonstrated its commitment to ending violence against women and girls (EVAWG) and intimate partner violence. Despite the vision for equality, violence against women and girls remains a challenge, with estimates from 38% to 59% of women and girls experiencing violence in their lifetime.





The Spotlight Initiative, launched in September 2017, is a multi-year global partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It represents an unprecedented global effort to invest in gender equality and women's empowerment as a precondition and driver for achieving sustainable development goals.


In the Pacific, the situation 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 facing 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 (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN Women), in support of the Government, and in close collaboration with the civil society, the World Health Organization (WHO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the UN Human Rights Advisor's Unit (HRAU).


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 (NAP GBV) (2017-2021)" and National SDG Roadmap. It contributes 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 involves strengthening and widening partnerships and solidarity across civil society, Government, media, private sector and development partners. The Initiative empowers 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 builds 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 more information about the Spotlight Initiative, visit

For media inquiries, please contact:

Marino Mouzinho, Media Adviser, Office of the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion. Email:

Stella D'Assis, Communication and Visibility Officer, EU Delegation to Timor-Leste. Email:  

Ahmed Saleem, Communications Officer, UN Resident Coordinator's Office. Email:

More than 357,000 people have benefited from the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in two years, concludes National Steering Committee


Ahmed Saleem

Communications Officer

UN entities involved in this initiative

International Labour 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