Dili, 3 November 2009 - Singing, dancing, flower petals cascading into the warm sea and an unveiled painting ensured that Timor-Leste's National Women's Day, November 3rd 2009, was marked with creativity, colour and flair.
Approximately 300 people attended the celebrations, honouring Timorese women's role in the history of the country, from their involvement in the struggle to independence to their work rebuilding the nation.
In the midst of the celebrations, the current challenges women face were not forgotten. Vows to end violence against women were made by dignitaries and attendees alike.
President Jose Ramos Horta, Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, President of the Parliament Fernando Lasama de Araujo and the Minister for Social Solidarity, Maria Domingos Alves, among other notables, launched a joint campaign to combat domestic violence. Each signed and wrote individual messages on postcards proclaiming "Domestic Violence is now a public crime. Anyone can report it. You could go to jail."
The postcard campaign tackling violence against women is part of the United Nation's efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in Timor-Leste. Spearheaded by UNIFEM, the joint campaign is the effort of the UNMIT, UNFPA, UNICEF, and IOM, and the Spanish MDG Achievement Fund. The Secretariat for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI), the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL) and a variety of Timorese NGOs led by FOKUPERS are also instrumental in ensuring the campaign's success.
The postcards will be circulated throughout Timor Leste so Timorese people have the opportunity to express their feelings, opposition, and hopes for change on the issue of domestic violence. The campaign will also raise awareness that domestic violence is a crime, featuring for the first time in the penal code. The campaign also promotes the approval of the Law against Domestic Violence, which has been passed by the Council of Ministers but yet to be debated in National Parliament.
Despite the inspiring stories of many women woven into Timorese history, domestic violence is prevalent. Many women reportedly live with, or with the threat of physical abuse. A 2003 study by the International Rescue Committee found that 51% of women consulted felt unsafe in their relationship with their husband.
The postcards are part of a larger public education strategy concerning the legal status of domestic violence, with a media publicity campaign to be launched in Oecussi on November 24th.
For further information please contact:
Phone: +670 331 3294 or +670 761 1730