16 Days of Activism

ILO enhances economic empowerment of women and other vulnerable groups in Timor-Leste through entrepreneurship

A three-day fair exhibition held in Dili has provided an opportunity for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs from other vulnerable groups to be economically independent and to fight against harassment and stigma.

News | Dili, Timor-Leste | 10 November 2023
Michiko Miyamoto, ILO Country Director for Timor-Leste, officially opens the three-day fair exhibition by releasing blue and white balloons. © ILO
More than 3,000 Timorese flocked to the three-day fair exhibition organized by the ILO in collaboration with Chamber of Commerce Timor-Leste (CCI-TL), Timor-Leste Businesswomen Association (AEMTL) and the Institute for Entrepreneurship Support and Development (IADE) under the Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste—a joint initiative of European Union-United Nations to eliminate violence against women and girls.

I am so proud with this joint effort to bring the country forward with improved business connectivity and a market balance promoting our own products."

Filipus Nino Pereira, Minister of Trade and Industry of Timor-Leste
Held from 24-26 October in Dili Port and under the theme “Empowering Women and Other Target Groups in Business”, the fair exhibition featured 60 businesses by women entrepreneurs, community-based business for LGBTI and people with disabilities and business associations.

The fair exhibition, started from 10am, presented a variety of products from the colourful tais, a traditional local textile, finely woven baskets and mats, embroidered cloths, musical instruments, wood carvings as well as traditional food and beverage. The live music with talented local musicians entertained local visitors from 7pm to 10pm.

The live music with talented local musicians entertain local visitors for three days from 7pm to 10pm. © ILO
Filipus Nino Pereira, Minister of Trade and Industry of Timor-Leste officially opened the fair exhibition together with Expedito Dias Ximenes, Secretary of State for Social Communication, Arsenio Pereira da Silva, Secretary of State for Cooperative, Michiko Miyamoto, Country Director for ILO in Timor-Leste and Susana Martins, representative of the European Union.

“I am so proud with this joint effort to bring the country forward with improved business connectivity and a market balance promoting our own products. I am also pleased that relevant ministries have jointly worked together and have built a partnership with the private sector to improve the economic growth,” stated the Minister Filipus in his opening remark.

He also emphasized the importance of the involvement of the vulnerable groups in the exhibition so that they could also join the other society groups to be free from the poverty and to gain prosperity. “Business opportunity should be for everyone. We cannot leave anyone behind.”

Providing support to the trade fair, President Ramos Horta took the time to visit the fair exhibition on the second day. He explored the exhibition, visiting some booths and looking at some products. His visit was greatly appreciated by the participating businesses.

President Ramos Horta took the time to visit the fair exhibition on the second day. © ILO

Equal business opportunity

The exhibition did not only facilitate and connect potential women and other vulnerable groups in business to market, it also provided an opportunity for the participants of ILO’s Gender and Entrepreneurship Together (GET Ahead) training programme, including female victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups, to showcase their products and services.

The fair trade provides a business opportunity for people with disabilities. © ILO

This is our first public exhibition. We are happy that we can directly display our products and engage with our customers. We always hide behind the online marketing to avoid stigma and discrimination. Yet, it is time for us to go public."

Julio do Carmo Candoso Amaral, a Programme Officer of CODIVA organization, a LGBTI group
Julio do Carmo Candoso Amaral, a Programme Officer of CODIVA organization, a LGBTI group, greatly valued the opportunity to be part of the fair trade. Together with a few friends, Julio has attempted to build a business since 2018. However, they have never had a chance to go public and showcase their products.

“This is our first public exhibition. We are happy that we can directly display our products and engage with our customers. We always hide behind the online marketing to avoid stigma and discrimination. Yet, it is time for us to go public,” said Julio enthusiastically.

He was also proud that his booth was visited by the Minister of Trade and Industry. Not only buying some products, but the Minister has also invited his business group to send a business proposal to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for further business development and expansion.

“While shaking my hand, the Minister said that no one should be left behind. Everybody should be part of the business development. I am so proud that our group has been noticed and recognized by the government,” added Julio who has continued to improve his business after completing the ILO’s GET Ahead Training.

International certifications awarded for selected trainers

Four trainers from two ILO’s implementing partners—AEMTL and IADE—were awarded with the Women Entrepreneurship Development (WED) certificates certifying them as the GET Ahead trainer. © ILO
Prior to the fair exhibition, the ILO’s Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste has worked hand in hand with its social partners to provide entrepreneurship skills and opportunities to be economically independent for women and other vulnerable groups in Timor-Leste. Using the ILO’s GET Ahead training modules, the entrepreneurship training programmes have reached a total of 144 women survivors, LGBTI and persons with disabilities.

This is my first time being awarded with the international scale of certificate. I am so proud... I will continue to conduct training of entrepreneurs for local women and other vulnerable groups to help them earning incomes and improving their living conditions."

Julia B. Leite Araujo from IADE
The GET Ahead is a gender-sensitive entrepreneurship training programme addressing some of the barriers faced by women and other vulnerable group in starting and running a business, including lack of entrepreneurial knowledge and skills, low confidence and gendered norms and roles that increase the burden of household and care responsibilities.

During the fair exhibition, four trainers from two ILO’s implementing partners—AEMTL and IADE—were awarded with the Women Entrepreneurship Development (WED) certificates certifying them as the GET Ahead trainer.

“This is my first time being awarded with the international scale of certificate. I am so proud. All the hard works are really paid off and I will continue to conduct training of entrepreneurs for local women and other vulnerable groups to help them earning incomes and improving their living conditions,” said Julia B. Leite Araujo from IADE who was awarded the certificates together with her fellow trainers: Ivo Inocencio Alecrim from IADE as well as Jacinta Abu Cau and Miranda Esperito Santo from AEMTL.

As a side event to strengthen participating entrepreneurs’ business motivation and enthusiasm, a seminar was organized to connect them with financial and other relevant institutions such as Timor-Leste Commercial Bank (BNCTL), Serve I.P Business Registration, Rede Feto Timor-Leste, an umbrella organization for women’s group in the country and Asistensia Legal ba Feto no Labarik (ALFeLa), an organization that provides a critical legal aid service for women and children in Timor-Leste.

At the same time, seminar provided an opportunity for the participants to further learn from business experiences of some businesswomen on how to maintain and expand their businesses. “To ensure the inclusivity, integration and sustainability of the government’s programmes, we need to give women the opportunity to establish their businesses and to participate in decision-making process,” said President Director of Rede Feto, Zélia Fernandes in her opening remark.

The ILO’s support was given through the Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste —a joint initiative of EU-UN to eliminate violence against women and girls. This global initiative is implemented by the ILO together with four other UN agencies in Timor-Leste.