Press Release

EU-UN Spotlight Initiative funded “safe space” to provide psychosocial support to GBV survivors in Timor-Leste

15 July 2022

DILI, July 14, 2022 – The first EU-UN Spotlight Initiative funded “safe space” in Timor-Leste, officially launched by Dr. Odete Maria Freitas Belo, Minister of Health, in Viqueque Municipality on July 08, is a welcome relief to hundreds of gender-based violence (GBV) survivors -- in the island nation with one of the highest cases of GBV in Southeast Asia.

The “safe space”, one of the Spotlight Initiative’s intervention in Timor-Leste, is a one-stop center offering a comprehensive range of services to survivors – including a safe shelter and psychosocial support. 

According to Demographic Health Survey (DHS 2016), 33 per cent of women aged between 15 - 49 years, in Timor-Leste, have experienced physical assault.

However, most GBV cases are under reported to authorities; making the “safe space” an essential center for survivors.

The Health Services of Viqueque Municipality has also designated three health personnel trained in forensic GBV cases to help manage the facility.

“We now have appropriate facilities to accommodate members of the community who experience domestic violence or any form of gender-based violence against women and girls with specialized and dignified services,” said Mr. Franscisco de Carvalho, Director of Health Services in Viqueque Municipality.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Odete Maria Freitas, Minister of Health, reiterated the need for concerted efforts to end gender-based violence – a serious public health and a human rights issue in Timor-Leste. 

“We need to pay close attention to end all forms of GBV cases by strengthening the Health Sector’s capacity to prevent and respond to gender-based violence -- since they are normally the first point of contact for GBV cases,” said Dr. Odete Maria Freitas, Minister of Health,Timor-Leste.

Though 59 per cent of ever-partnered women aged 15 - 19 in Timor-Leste experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime, what is more disturbing is that the exact figures might be much higher.

Dr. Domingas Bernardo, UNFPA Timor-Leste Assistant Country Representative noted that UNFPA, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and relevant ministries, research institutions and academia, provide research support related to gender implications on health emergencies to strengthen the availability of evidence -- to inform advocacy and programmatic interventions that are gender-sensitive and responsive.

With recent reports confirming increased cases of violence against women and girls during pandemics and emergencies, the one-of-a-kind “safe space” in Timor-Leste, will help address gender inequality issues and meet the urgent needs of women and girls affected by violence or at risk of violence. 

The Spotlight Initiative is a global partnership project between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

UNFPA collaborates with implementing partners, women’s right groups and organizations representing most marginalized communities to ensure that the response to pandemics and emergencies does not reproduce or perpetuate harmful gender norms, discriminatory practices and inequalities.


For more information, contact:

Suleiman Okoth

Communications and Programme Support Specialist

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Timor-Leste

UN House, Caicoli Street

Dili, Timor-Leste

Mobile: +670 75169796

WhatsApp: +254 780534026



Suleiman Okoth

Communications and Programme Support Specialist

UN entities involved in this initiative

United Nations Population Fund

Goals we are supporting through this initiative