Newsroom Archive: Jan 2014
31 January 2014
Through self-help groups, grants and gardens, women are gaining economic independence in rural Timor-Leste.
“When you are going through something in your marriage, you think about the kids and how you are going to feed the kids if you don’t have him anymore,” Rosalina Moniz, 50 years old, from western Timor-Leste.
Rosalina suffered suffered years of domestic violence, experienced frequent feelings of hopelessness, and felt as if there was no way out.
However, women like Rosalina are now able to leave violent relationships and are starting to heal. Rosalina is now able to support her family by herself, thanks to self-help groups of other women in similar situations, who help each other run income-generating activities. This work is supported by UN Women, with funding from governments including Australian Aid (DFAT). The self-help groups aim to assist women in developing businesses that will provide them with financial independence. The business owners are a diverse group of women, from survivors of domestic violence, to widows, to single mothers and other community members.
Rosalina, who has been living on her own for several years now, received a micro-grant and training from UN Women and the Asia-Pacific Support Collective Timor-Leste (APSC-TL), and has used these skills to start numerous small businesses, including brick-making and food conservation. The one Rosalina is most proud of, though, is the garden she started with nine other people.
Her garden featured boasts some vegetables that are not usually grown in her area of Timor Leste. “We got cabbage seeds from a nearby community and soon, we will be the only group in Holsa village, part of western Timor-Leste, to grow this,” says Rosalina, smiling.
“We still talk about other things we can do as a group to earn money, and the more people join, the more ideas we have.”
Laura Abrantes, one of the founding members of APSC-TL, says that helping set up businesses “is all part of empowering women and men to connect with each other and find new ways of supporting their families.”
It is a clear example of the fact that when women prosper, their families and communities prosper also. Due to the success of this UN Women program, it will now be expanded to three more areas in Timor-Leste.
20 January 2014
Around 600 women have been trained in literacy, entrepreneurship and other skills to enhance their physical and economic security.
“My whole life I never spoke English. Now, at my age, I can write my name and I know my ABCs and 123s,”
– recipient of UN Women-sponsored training in literacy, leadership and economic skills – Bopulu, Liberia.
150 women met with New York delegates in Bopulu, a town in Liberia’s northern Gharpolu County, to share stories of their training under a UN Women project on how they have benefited from training under a UN Women project teaching them literacy and economic skills. Since 2012, around 600 women have been trained in literacy, entrepreneurship, leadership and other economic skills. These skills are particularly important to empower women in post-conflict societies.
Liberia emerged from over a decade of civil war in 2003 with much of its infrastructure and social fabric in tatters. Women and girls were particularly affected by the conflict, suffering extreme hardship and high incidence of sexual violence. When women have better economic skills and their safety is assured in post-conflict societies, they are more able to participate in politics and post-conflict restructuring and have a greater role to play in their communities.
With the economic skills taught by the UN Women funded program, women’s businesses are taking off thanks to a village savings and loan programme. A key product in this business is dried fruits and spices; by controlling the production and sale of these goods, the women of Gharpolu County have their own income and means to support their families. They also have a greater role to play in their families and communities.
“Now the men are running to us to ask us what we want, since we have our own money and our own security,”– a young woman participant of the economic training program.
The training has also enabled the women to form a special bond and support network with each other, especially during challenging times. A woman in their network was about to be left destitute after her husband decided to leave her and their children for another woman, without providing any financial support for her children. When the other women heard of this plan, they gathered together and barricaded him in his house, forcing him to leave money for his wife and children. The man relented and left the village in disgrace. With this intervention, the wife was able to continue to send her children to school.
For women in post-conflict contexts like Liberia, physical and economic security go hand-in-hand. If women and girls are self-sufficient, they are more able to walk away from abusive situations. As the women of Bopolu can attest, having economic skills and an independent income has enabled them to stand up for their rights and support their families and communities.