European Union empowers women and boost climate-smart agriculture in Timor-Leste

(Source: EEAS)

“Hakbiit Feto” – Empower Women – is a new European Union-funded project, implemented by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in collaboration with Rede Feto and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), aiming to support women’s social and economic empowerment.

Currently in Timor-Leste, the main challenges for women remain deep poverty, frequent cases of domestic violence and lack of recognition of women’s contribution to the political, economic and social spheres.  Economic empowerment is particularly crucial as conflict during the Indonesian occupation and violence following the popular consultation on independence in 1999 left nearly half of all Timorese women widowed and sole providers for their family.  

Hakbiit Feto will contribute to increasing respect for fundamental human rights by supporting and strengthening the role of women as key agents for sustainable development and change, particularly the most vulnerable women. The initiative formally got underway on 1 March 2021, aiming to promote social inclusion and economic opportunities for women in Timor-Leste and to strengthen the capacity of local civil society organisations (CSOs) to operate effectively. This press release is presented in lieu of an official face to face launch due to current COVID-19 restrictions in Dili.

With a grant from the European Union of USD 869,565 and an Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) contribution of USD 38,587 ADRA and Rede Feto are teaming up to implement this four- year project in four municipalities: Ainaro, Bobanaro, Baucau, and Dili. The initiative will help 45 CSOs to create gender awareness and inclusion, and support female heads of households in production, processing, trading, saving, and loan activities. 

Hakbiit Feto’s main objective is to empower women socially and economically. It will provide education on climate-smart agriculture, organic production methods, business basic literacy and numeracy, facilitating farmers’ access to micro-finance so they can access the markets. It will also provide a wide range of real-time and reliable information on markets, prices, vendors as well as weather and soil quality, through a mobile application, to boost the productivity and sales of women farmers.

 “Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the European Union. Ensuring equality is one of our core objectives, and this is an important battle to fight, both inside and outside the EU. Investing in Timorese women’s economic empowerment sets them on a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth. Women make an enormous contribution to the Timorese economy, whether in businesses, on farms, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid care work at home. Civil society organisations like ADRA and Rede Feto are often best placed to work at the local level to unlock the power of women and to underline the added value of having women adequately represented in society.  I am very proud to launch the Hakbiit Feto project in Timor-Leste”,said Mr Andrew Jacobs, European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste.

“Rede Feto Timor-Leste has a strong commitment to implement this new project and we believe in all partners. We are thankful to the European Union through ADRA Timor-Leste in their trust to work together with Rede Feto in the Hakbiit Feto Project”, said Zelia Fernandes, Board Chair of Rede Feto Timor-Leste.

“Women in particular will experience the positive effects of our initiative by being able to enter a marketplace previously closed to them and providing dependable income, self-reliance, and even safety, to them and their children. Connectedness is one of ADRA’s core values. Connected to our CSO partners, and strengthening their reach and collaboration, we are committed to empower women; individually, but also organized in community-based organizations such as village savings, and loan schemes, in groups for agricultural production and processing, as well as for collective marketing“, saidMarcel Wagner, Country Director of ADRA Austria.

While 80% of Timorese depend on subsistence agriculture as primary source of income, productivity returns on agriculture labour are 75%-80% lower than agriculture productivity in most South-East Asian countries. Lack of employment and alternate livelihood opportunities especially among women, are major causes for poverty and vulnerability. Uptake of microfinance nationally is only 5%.  Women tend to have less access and control over productive assets and labour-saving equipment, and smaller/more-localised trading networks than men.

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