Since she was a young girl, Zinha wanted to help those in need – especially women.
Now she works with our partner in Timor-Leste, PRADET, helping vulnerable women who have survived abuse and violence.
A driven student
Zinha began volunteering with NGO Caucus when she was a university student, training and encouraging women to run for leadership positions.
While still at uni, she took up a full-time role with Caritas Australia as Project Officer for the Survivor Support Program. In this position, she managed three safe houses for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
Journey to PRADET
After working with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, CAVR Foundation and Asia Pacific Foundation, Zinha joined the team at PRADET in 2017.
She is now Coordinator of the Women’s Socio-Economic Empowerment Program, working with women who have experienced domestic abuse, as well as women in Gleno Prison.
Zinha helps women learn business skills so they can become socially and financially independent. This might include running a kiosk, farming chickens, sewing garments or further study. Women receive start-up funding for their business, plus continued monitoring and support to help them succeed.
Working with Gleno’s women
Unfortunately, women in Gleno Prison are often victims of domestic violence and, in many cases, can’t afford legal representation.
Zinha visits Gleno Prison twice a week. There is no women’s prison, so women are housed in a compound within the predominantly male prison. The Commander of Gleno Prison welcomes Zinha’s visits. He says PRADET’s programs bring peace to the prison, where activities are extremely limited.
Zinha works with a local teacher to provide women with literacy classes, which increases their chances of finding work when they’re released. Inmates also learn how to sew, and garments are sold to a local shop in Dili.
An advocate for justice
Zinha’s work with women in prison is remarkable. Women have gained important life skills and say they have more hope for the future.
She also uses her legal training to advocate for the early release of women who have demonstrated good behaviour. Zinha has approached the Office of the Public Defender and prosecutors to encourage them to review the cases of some female prisoners, and to date has helped negotiate the early release of six women.
Fleur*, 24, is just one woman Zinha has advocated for. Fleur was in prison on remand for the crime of infanticide but had not stood trial. When Zinha contacted the prosecutor, he apologised for the delay and ordered the trial to start. Consequently, the charges were dismissed and Fleur has returned to her family.
Hopes for the future
Although Zinha is already doing incredible work, she hopes to visit prison programs in other countries, continue improving her skills, and devise strategies to ensure sustainable funding for PRADET’s life-changing work.
Donate now to support PRADET’s work with vulnerable women.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Sustainable Development Goals
Action on Poverty’s work with PRADET is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).