Men as Partners to End Violence Against Women

UNIFEM Regional Conference on “Men as Partners to End Violence
Against Women” mobilizes Timorese men for change.

This is really good news. When I was in Timor-Leste last year a lot of
work was being done on domestic violence.

Wish someone would start an intensive programme like this in Britain,
where there are huge problems of domestic violence, many women and children
forced to flee family homes to seek shelter in women’s refuges because
of repeated acts of violence being committed against them. Interestingly
there is a refuge near my home for the wife’s of soldiers, the soldiers somehow
believing that the stress and anger of their working lives can be
elevated by beating their families. Studies confirm that many men who have been
brutalised in civilian life resort to this action.

Should be pointed out that men also suffer domestic violence, though on a
much smaller scale, recently there has been an increase in reported acts
of violence against men in Britain, a small number of male refuges have now

Although some are brave enough to leave the scene of domestic
violence there are many who are too afraid to take the step or even
officially report the violence, domestic violence in Britain and I suspect
many other Western countries is still very much a taboo subject. Many
westerners somehow exporting the idea that ‘it never happens in our

It is extremely pleasing that Dr Rui Maria de Araujo, Timor-Leste’s
former Vice Prime Minister, is going to expand on the good work started while she
was a member of the Fretilin government, and that the new government of
Timor Leste will continue to support the work. In Britain refuges, on
the whole are self funded or supported by charities, the government taking
little interest in this important issue.

It is gratifying to note HAK director, Jose Luis Oliviera, is prepared
to join the delegation.and that he openly speaks of a patriarchal society in
Timor-Leste. Its much healthier to have this kind of attitude, to
genuinely try to improve gender understanding. Sadly another Western myth is that
we are all equal in western societies, indeed there is an outward
appearance of equality but Western institutions are still, on the whole,

Tyneside East Timor Solidarity


—– Original Message —–
From: “ETAN” <
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Sent: Saturday, September 01, 2007 1:47 PM
Subject: UNIFEM Regional Conference on "Men as Partners to End Violence
Against Women" mobilizes Timorese men for change.

UNIFEM Regional Conference on "Men as Partners to End Violence Against
Women" mobilizes Timorese men for change.

August 31st, 2007.

Thailand's Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Royal
Thai Government, in collaboration with UNIFEM's East and South-East Asia
Regional Office in Bangkok will bring together male participants from the
Asia-Pacific on the 3rd and 4th of September, in Bangkok, with an aim to
brainstorming methods on the active engagement of men to stop various
forms of violence against women.

The participation of male representatives from Timor-Leste will
supplement a dynamic range of participants in the conference, which aims to facilitate
the sharing of experience and good practice across the region.

Whilst regional, the conference will provide a foundation for development
of programmes in Timor-Leste through UNIFEM's Supporting Community-led
Initiatives to Promote Women's Engagement in Peace-building and
Prevention of Sexual Violence (SGBV), which is currently mapping sexual and
gender-based violence in the western districts of Bobonaro and Covalima
in an effort to address three outcome areas: building enabling legal, policy
and institutional environments, promoting women's access to legal and
other support services, and supporting gender advocates and women's groups
participation in local conflict reconciliation and in shaping
institutional mechanisms to address SGBV.

, Timor-Leste's former Vice Prime Minister and
Minister for Health and current Special Adviser on Policy Implementation
and Management Strengthening to the Ministry of Health will provide insights
to the conference on measures being undertaken in Timor-Leste by the
country's health and public sector's respectively.

"My presentation will cover initiatives implemented in Timor-Leste over
the last five years. This conference will allow, also, an opportunity for me
to share some of my experiences while in office as a member of the
government in the fight against gender based violence," Dr Araujo said.

"I expect to gain more concrete initiatives from various sectors in the
region, particularly in the area of the state playing a leading role in
combating violence against women."

Timor-Leste's broad network of advocates and civil society organisations
pushing to end violence against women, according to Dr Araujo, is a
positive reflection of a national interest to see violence against women
eradicated. Of major importance, however, is the role of the state, and the role that
men can play.

"There is a widely disseminated misperception that gender is a women's
issue. It is important to promote the role of men in advocating gender
issues. Men, and the state, have to become greater advocates for ending
violence against women."

Timor-Leste's patriarchal culture is often cited as impeding the
development of gender equality. Dr Araujo believes, however, that positive lessons
from the region can have an influential role in breaking down such culturally
ingrained perspectives.

"There is always room to learn good things from other societies and then
try to implement them in Timor-Leste. In that process of adapting, however,
one should always be aware of cultural sensitivity. It's obvious that we
shouldn't copy and paste things from other countries. We should, however,
learn from the positive examples and look for creative ways in
implementing them into our society. The experiences of other countries and, in turn,
the synthesis of these experiences into Timor-Leste's society is extremely
worthwhile," Dr Araujo insisted.

The role of Timor-Leste's strong patriarchal society was acknowledged,

"Men in Timor-Leste have a paternalistic and patriarchal mentality. It's
important that men are conscientious to help other men, to advocate for
other men. Men close themselves off to women because they believe they
are more important. But men can help one another to encourage a heightened
respect for women," Oliviera insisted.

"Culture is not static. Culture is dynamic. In a dynamic process, you
must also have interaction with other parties to diversify cultural society.
This conference will allow us to gain another positive example of advocating
for human rights that can be implemented in Timor-Leste. Human rights are
universal. They are not simply an idea external from Timor-Leste. They
apply in Timor-Leste also," he concluded.

Other participants in the conference will include Padre Fransisco Jose
Baeza Roca from the Salele parish in Suai, Men's Association Against Violence
(AMKV) board member, Mericio Akara, President of the Timor-Leste
Journalism Association, Virgilio Guterres, PNTL's head of the Capacity Development
Department, Domingos Gomes, and the director of local newspaper, Tempo
Semanal, Jose Belo.

Already, a commitment has been made by the participants to bring lessons
and strategies from the conference back to Timor-Leste to further consolidate
efforts to fight violence against women. A preliminary meeting with
participants showed encouraging signs for the future with suggestions of
a task-force to end violence against women, the establishment of an active
advocacy working group and the de-centralization of communication and
training strategies.

UNIFEM's Regional Programme Director, Dr. Jean D'Cunha, reinforced the
pressing need for such a conference and the participation of men. "There
is an urgent need to systematically generate a critical mass of men
advocating for humane gender sensitive values and practices in which girls and boys,
women and men, together build cultures and communities of peace,
security, and equality in gender relations."

"With an understanding of the male ethos, men can develop a persuasive
language as advocates to demonstrate how, as men violently guard narrow
male privilege, they seriously compromise their humanity as they perpetuate a
culture of violence."

UNIFEM, which works to promote women's empowerment, rights and gender
equality worldwide, in Timor-Leste, runs in-country programs seeking to
further champion women's empowerment in democratic governance as well as
advocating for a platform within the country's nascent democracy to
eradicate violence against women. Their Timor-Leste programme Supporting
Community-led Initiatives to Promote Women's Engagement in Peace-building
and Prevention of Sexual Violence (SGBV) is a two-year programme aimed at
developing community based responses to SGBV and promoting women's
engagement in local conflict reconciliation and peace building

For more information, please contact:

Chris Parkinson
UNIFEM Timor-Leste

p. (+670) 726 3773


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