16 Days of Activism

ILO joins forces with Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation to end violence against women

The Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation (KSTL), with support from the ILO Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste, has been actively promoted the elimination of violence against women at both community and company levels.

News | Dili, Timor-Leste | 27 November 2023
The advocacy campaign of the Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation (KSTL) involving relevant stakeholders at the community level. © ILO
Having a deep concern about issues related to harassment against women in Timor-Leste, the Timor-Leste Trade Union Confederation (KSTL), with support from the ILO Spotlight Initiative in Timor-Leste—a joint initiative of European Union-United Nations to eliminate violence against women and girls, has conducted a series of advocacy campaigns at both company and village levels.

Under its Women and Youth Commission, KSTL has organized advocacy campaigns in three targeted municipalities: Ermera, Bobonaro and Viqueque since 2021. The campaign activities have involved traditional leaders, community leaders, religious leaders and other relevant village authorities and leaders, including the organizational leaders for LGBTI groups.

Through the awareness raising activities at rural areas, we have witnessed a decrease in case reporting. We have also witnessed an active participation from each group to distributing flyers, placing posters and starting the discussions about this issue."

Eduarda Miranda Branco from KSTL’s Women Commission
Eduarda Miranda Branco from KSTL’s Women Commission who has been actively involved in the ILO-KSTL joint campaign shared that they faced strong resistances when they first introduced gender-quality issues and actions to stop harassment against women. The country's strong patriarchal culture and customary laws reinforce strict gender roles, making women vulnerable to harassment and violence.

“When we first organize the meeting with local leaders and stakeholders, they were furious and kicked us out from the villages. They told us that we could not touch internal issues within the privacy of the household,” told Eduarda.

However, with continuous support from the ILO, the five members of the KSTL’s women commission who were assigned for the campaign activities refused to give up. “We keep coming back to the villages and we continue personally approaching the leaders, making them understand that it is time for a change. It is time to treat women equally and to prevent as well as eliminate violence and harassment against women,” she added.

Their hard works were paid off. Realizing the benefits of gender equality to their society, the village leaders have agreed to support the campaign. As a result, 18 advocacy groups have been established in the three targeted municipalities with six advocacy groups within each municipality spreading in six villages.

Each group consists of five representatives of village leaders and authorities. They do not only advocate local villagers about issues related to gender equality, but also support victims of violence by connecting them with relevant non-governmental organizations for further assistance.

“Through the awareness raising activities at rural areas, we have witnessed a decrease in case reporting. We have also witnessed an active participation from each group to distributing flyers, placing posters and starting the discussions about this issue,” said Eduarda.

Promoting safer workplaces at the company level 

KSTL has conducted an advocacy programme to 84 companies in the capital city of Dili. © ILO

We are going to continue this awareness raising programme and we will specifically aim the construction companies next year."

Serafico Natalino Soares, Vice President of KSTL
In addition to the rural communities, KSTL has conducted an advocacy programme to 84 companies in the capital city of Dili. Representatives of KSTL had a discussion with both the management and workers, raising awareness about issues related to violence and harassment at work, introducing the ILO Convention No. 190 and encouraging the insertion of safe working environment in the company’s policy and its collective bargaining agreement.

“We are going to continue this awareness raising programme and we will specifically aim the construction companies next year,” stated Serafico Natalino Soares, Vice President of KSTL.

He added that within the organization, KSTL has developed 28 resolutions during its recently Congress for the period of 2023-2027. At least two of the resolutions highlight the elimination of violence and harassment at workplace, the ratification of ILO Convention No.190 and the reinforcement of its women and youth commission.

The transformation has also widely spread to individual members of KSTL. Serafico provided himself as an example by saying the knowledge and awareness about this issue has helped him persuading his family to have the same awareness. “Now I advocate this issue to my family, making them realize about the importance of equality and help managing this issue within my family,” he said.

Similarly, Eduarda said that “I am very proud that I can be part of this movement. When I first join the ILO training about this issue, I learn a lot and now I can transfer my knowledge, promote the equality right of women workers and empower them.”

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reported that in over half of East Timorese women aged 15-49 had experienced physical or sexual violence by a male partner in 2023. Gender-based violence is also the largest category of crimes reported to the police.

Eduarda Miranda Branco from KSTL’s Women Commission actively raising the awareness about issues related to the elimination of violence and harassment at work. © ILO