Sowing the seeds for a peaceful and prosperous future

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.