By Sylvia Frain. This piece is part of our September focus on Women’s Rights. See all of this month’s articles here.
Australia’s geographically unique location allows it to collaborate, share recourses, and partner with its neighbours for development across Asia and the Pacific Region. Recently Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launched the “Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development” initiative, further strengthening the support between Australia and women in the Pacific. In addition, the Australian Government has made the commitment that over the next ten years it will work for women’s political participation and economic empowerment by appointing The Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
These long-term projects work toward human rights on local, national and regional levels to ensure that the rights of women within the entire Pacific Region are upheld. Leading by example, Australia promotes the protection of women’s human rights through fostering leadership programs, promoting advocacy work and conducting social research both at home and abroad. Development programs that focus on capacity building, vocational training and allowing a space for women to participate within the development decision-making also empower women throughout the region. Although women are disproportionately the sufferers of war and conflict, they are also uniquely strong actors for creating peace.
By supporting women in Timor-Leste within the peace-building process, their human rights of safety, economic opportunities and protection for their families are recognised. Through the promotion of gender equality, a woman’s immediate family will benefit, as well as her district and the young nation of Timor-Leste as a whole. Vocational training for women in Timor-Leste improves participation, reduces poverty and strengthens communities.
The Photo Essay, Women’s Vocational Training Program; Repairing Sewing Machines in the district of Lautem, Timor-Leste, demonstrates one of Plan International’s many peacebuilding programs. Plan Timor-Leste developed the Women’s Vocational Training project in March 2010 as a result of high unemployment and low female participation in other training programs. Within two years, 170 young women in Aileu and 140 in Lautem Districts have completed the four-day training that cover technical and mechanical issues, maintenance procedures, as well as business management skills. Some of the young women who have completed vocational training now have the ability to generate their own income, gain employment or have started their own business. The Women’s Vocational Training project has a target of reaching 400 young women throughout Timor-Leste.
Culturally sensitive socialisations were held at district and sub-district levels involving local leaders, women’s organizations and youth councils. Women-only groups are planned to provide opportunities for women to take leadership roles in these areas within their communities and to form income generation groups. The general objective of this program is to ensure that young women have access to adequate income opportunities and have the option to participate productively in their communities through vocational trainings, capacity building workshops and empowerment activities.
To find out more about Plan Timor-Leste’s work please visit:
Sylvia Frain is currently studying a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland.