The two-day ‘Do No Harm’ workshop on ethical and safe approach when responding to cases of gender-based violence (GBV) was held on March 30, 31 in Viqueque, Timor-Leste. The ‘Do No Harm’ workshop aims to promote better understanding of the nature of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) which interlinks with mental health of the survivors, and supports local communities to adopt ‘Do No Harm’ approach, namely ethical and safe method when respond to cases of VAWG. The workshop has been conducted in three municipalities, Bobonaro, Ermera and Viqueque, lectured by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), local authorities and Justice Institutions that work closely on VAWG and GBV. At the seminar, the participants including school teachers and students are encouraged to share their experiences when dealing with GBV cases and survivors, and discuss about how they can improve local community to response and prevent the VAWG.
Irene Kobesi works as the PNTL (Policia National Timor-Leste) First Sergeant in Vulnerable Person Unit (VPU), supporting survivors of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). She said “I participated in the ‘Do No Harm’ workshop, because, as a VPU officer, my duty is to protect women and girls.” At the workshop, interconnections between VAWG and mental health of the survivors were underlined to understand the wider perspective of VAWG: survivors are harmed not only when they received violence, but also when they receive indiscreet questions about the sexual violence during the judicial process.
During the seminar, it was emphasized that people’s better understandings of VAWG and cooperation from local authorities are necessary to eliminate VAWG at the community level. Maria Odete do Amaral, a Chief of Village in Viqueque, stated “I really wanted to join this seminar because this is essential for me as a community leader. I can share what I learned in this seminar with my community, and those who experienced violence, mostly women and girls.” While “Prevention of domestic violence can start from family. If we have knowledge in VAWG, domestic violence can be prevented in the early stage. If we solve family issue with violence, our children never learn how to solve problem without violence” addressed by Jose Delima, a Coordinator of Public Defender.
In Timor-Leste, climate change also exacerbates cases of VAWG. In the interview, Irene shared her experience in the flash floods during March 29th -April 4th 2021, resulted in disastrous landslide that produced more than 15,000 internally displaced people right after the disaster. “Last year, we experienced the catastrophic flood. Some people were traumatized, because they didn’t have place to live, and experienced violence from their partners. We provided support to those who suffered from both flood and violence. If their houses are not safe to live, we contacted local authorities to provide them an emergency shelter.”
To respond and prevent VAWG, a bottom-up approach to adopt ‘Do No Harm’ at the community level is essential, because the causes of the violence are deeply connected to the social context of Timor-Leste. “Together, we can end violence against women and girls” concluded Irene.