Currently, in Timor-Leste (East Timor), the main challenges for women continue to be deep poverty, domestic violence, and lack of a recognition of women’s contribution to the political, economic, and social spheres. Economic empowerment is particularly crucial as conflict during the Indonesian occupation and violence, following the popular consultation on independence in 1999, left nearly half of all Timorese women widowed and thus, the sole providers for their families.
The project, Hakbiit Feto (Empower Women), will contribute to creating increased respect for fundamental human rights by supporting and strengthening the role of women as key agents for sustainable development and change, particularly those that are the most vulnerable. The initiative formally got underway at the start of March 2021, with the aim to promote social inclusion and economic opportunities for women in Timor-Leste and strengthen the capacity for local civil society organizations (CSOs) to operate effectively. This press release is presented in place of an official face-to-face launch due to current COVID-19 restrictions in Dili.
With a grant from the European Union of $869,565USD, and a contribution from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) of $38,587USD, ADRA and Rede Feto are teaming up to implement this four-year project in the municipalities of Ainaro, Bobanaro, Baucau, and Dili. The initiative will help 45 CSOs to create gender awareness and inclusion programs, and support female heads of households in production, processing, trading, saving, and loan activities.
Hakbiit Feto’s main objective is to empower women socially and economically. It will provide education on climate-smart agriculture, organic production methods, business basic literacy and numeracy, and facilitating farmers’ access to microfinance so they can access the markets. To boost the productivity and sales of women farmers it will provide a mobile application that will give real-time and reliable information on markets, prices, vendors as well as weather and soil quality.
“Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the European Union. Ensuring equality is one of our core objectives, and this is an important battle to fight, both inside and outside the EU. By investing in Timorese women’s economic empowerment, we are creating a direct path towards gender equality, overcoming poverty, and inclusive economic growth. Women make an enormous contribution to the Timorese economy, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. Civil society organizations like ADRA and Rede Feto are often best placed to work at the local level to unlock the power of women and to underline the added value of having women adequately represented in society. I am very proud to launch the Hakbiit Feto project in Timor-Leste”, said Mr. Andrew Jacobs, European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste.
“Rede Feto Timor-Leste has a strong commitment to implement this new project and we believe in all partners. We are thankful to the European Union through ADRA Timor-Leste in their trust to work together with Rede Feto in the Hakbiit Feto Project '', said Zelia Fernandes, Board Chair of Rede Feto Timor-Leste.
“Women, in particular, will experience the positive effects of our initiative by being able to enter a marketplace previously closed to them and providing dependable income, self-reliance, and even safety, to them and their children. Connectedness is one of ADRA’s core values. Connected to our CSO partners, and strengthening their reach and collaboration, we are committed to empowering women; individually, but also organized in community-based organizations such as village savings, and loan schemes, in groups for agricultural production and processing, as well as for collective marketing“, said Marcel Wagner, Country Director of ADRA Austria.
While 80% of Timorese depend on subsistence agriculture as the primary source of income, productivity returns on agriculture labor are 75%-80% lower than agriculture productivity in most South-East Asian countries. Lack of employment and alternate livelihood opportunities, especially among women, are major causes for poverty and vulnerability. The uptake of microfinance is only 5% nationally. Women tend to have less access and control over productive assets and labor-saving equipment, and smaller/more-localized trading networks than men.