Population: 1.29 million
Poverty rate: 41.8%
After achieving independence in 2002, Timor-Leste continues to face significant development challenges, including high rates of poverty, malnutrition, and gender-based violence. Lack of access to water, low crop diversity, and climate change are major drivers behind the high rates of food and nutrition insecurity in Timor, with over 50 per cent of children under five experiencing stunted growth. Meanwhile, Timorese women face stigma and violence, with almost 60 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 experiencing domestic violence.
Overcoming gender-based violence and poverty
After experiencing a sexual assault, Marisa*, a 16-year-old high school student from a remote farming village in Timor-Leste, approached our friends at Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor (PRADET) for counselling and support.
Gender-based violence, including sexual and family violence, are major issues in Timor-Leste. Unfortunately, 14% of Timorese women aged 15 – 49 have experienced sexual assault perpetrated by someone other than an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime.
When PRADET began working with Marisa’s family, they discovered that they were struggling. The family lived in a tiny bamboo house that didn’t keep out the rain. Marisa’s parents barely had enough to keep everyone fed and in school. They had no way of saving for their children and giving them a pathway to a better life.
With PRADET, we helped Marisa set up a small kiosk in her house selling everyday items such as rice, toothpaste, noodles, cooking oil and detergent.
The kiosk took off, and the family was soon able to upgrade their home with brick walls and a concrete floor. They also reinvested in the kiosk by buying more stock that catered to their customers’ requests, such as sweets for children.
Marisa is now saving up to $15 per month to pay for her future university education. The kiosk also helps cover the school fees for her siblings.
Marisa’s parents are working hard to diversify their income. They have also invested profits from the kiosk in a greenhouse and are now selling their vegetables to traders in Dili, earning up to $70 per harvest.
“Now we can buy flour and other items we couldn’t afford before,” said Marisa’s mum. “We want to keep diversifying our income so we can earn more and save for our children.”
*Name has been changed
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