(Alolamedia/Dili) For two days (February 20-21) the Alola Foundation in collaboration with Mane ho Vizaun Foun (Man With New Vision /MHVF) through the support of the União Europeia (EU)-UN Spotlight Initiative partnering with UN Women held the first meeting with members of the Connect with Respect (CWR) reference group phase two.
The Spotlight Initiative program, officially launched in Timor-Leste in 2017, is led by the UN, including UN women working with the Government of Timor-Leste through the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion (SEII), supported by the European Union. The Alola Foundation and Mane Ho Vizaun Foun started implemented the Spotlight Initiative since February 2021 and continue to this year with a target of covering 15 schools in 3 municipalities of Ermera, Bobonaro and Viqueque.
“I don’t think there’s nobody here gonna be the Alola foundation to do this work. So congratulations. We trust you. We believe you”, said Nishtha Satyam, Head of the UN Women Office Timor-Leste when signing a memorandum of understanding between the Alola foundation and UN Women in December last year.
The meeting was officially opened by the Executive Director of the Alola Foundation, Maria Guterres and attended by representatives from National Director of Primary Education – Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEJD), representatives from Institution for Children’s Rights Protection (INDDICAS-IP), Director of Education of Ermera Municipality, Director of the National Institute for Training of Teachers and Education Professionals (INFORDEPE) of Bobonaro Municipality, MHFV team, representatives of INFORDEPE of Ermera Municipality, representatives of INFORDEPE of Ermera Municipality Viqueque and the Advocacy Team of the Alola Foundation.
The CEO of the Alola Foundation, Maria Guterres said at the opening session that the meeting was held with the main objective of reviewing and discussing the implementation of the Second Phase of the CWR and the Positive Parenting Program.
“This activity is important for gathering ideas because you are the owners of this program,” explained the CEO of Alola to the participants who attended.
Maria Guterres also emphasized that the meeting could strengthen the existence of the CWR Reference Group and at the same time expressed her hope that in the future this program would be sustainable with the integration of CWR into the Ministry of Education’s curriculum to be implemented in schools.
“We are the key point, we are all executors, we are involved in this program to ensure that the implementation of this program can run successfully,” said CEO’s Alola , Maria Guterres.
On the same occasion, the two-day meeting also received good appreciation from UN Women Timor-Leste. Through its representative, Dario F. D. de Sousa, as the National Program Officer (NPO), UN Women expressed high appreciation for the contributions of the participants with ideas and suggestions during the meeting so that the content of this program was more contextual.
“At this meeting we focused on how we see together the contents of the “Connect With Respect” Program, so that when we talk we have an understanding, so we hope for your ideas and suggestions to support this so that this content can be more contextual, and can be implemented properly,” said Dario F. D. de Sousa, National Program Officer (NPO) – UN Women Timor-Leste.
UN Women is one of five UN agencies implementing the Spotlight Initiative program in Timor-Leste with the common vision that women and girls can enjoy their rights, live in gender equality and be free from violence. Through its technical support, UN Women has contributed to the successful implementation of the first phase of the CWR program implemented by the Alola Foundation and MHVF. The Connect with Respect program is an extra-curriculum for schools and teachers to talk about respect for women, healthy and respectful relationships, and prevent violence against women from a young age using whole-school approach that aims to engage teachers, parents and students.
“This is a program that’s unique cause it only speaks to teachers. It also brings parents, students, and teachers”, said the Head of the UN Women Office Timor-Leste Nishtha Satyam when signing the memorandum of understanding between the Alola foundation and UN Women, last year.
The representative of National Director of Primary Education -MEJD, Ms. Elsa Magno de Araujo Verdial, also welcomed the meeting. As the MEJD Gender Vocal Points, Ms. Elsa congratulated the success of the Alola Foundation and the MHVF team in implementing the CWR program last year.
“We give concern each other because we hope that we do can have better results than we did last year, congratulations to the team of Alola Foundation and Man With New Vision, the Ministry of Education is the owner of but we only accompanied, all of you and the agency, we are very grateful on behalf of the Ministry of Education,” she explained.
The success of the CWR project will not only support the work of the Ministry of Education to effectively implement the policy of zero tolerance at school as well as the policy of return to school but also support the work of the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion (SEII) ) in the process of implementing the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence specially for the period 2017-2021 .
One month earlier, on January 23 – 26, Alola through its Advocacy Program had organized consultations with several relevant parties such as the municipal authorities, the municipal Ministry of Education and the directors of the target schools of the second phase of the “Connect With Respect” program. The activities were held in three municipalities, Ermera, Bobonaro and Viqueque with the aim of obtaining input and suggestions from related parties.
Many parents think that to change their child’s behavior they have to use threats and intimidation and some other parents also think that physical violence is a way of educating children to behave well.
“I think it is very important to change negative behavior or thoughts like that and initiatives are needed for efforts to stop it starting from the family, home, school and community,” explained Maria Guterres, Executive Director of Alola.
Negative behavior in children becomes a problem for parents and must be corrected. Parents, family including teachers have an important role in this. Strengthening their role to be able to encourage healthy, fair relationships with positive communication needs to be done.
From 2021 during the COVID-19 Pandemic to 2022, Alola and Mane Ho Vizaun Foun have conducted various training activities for 454 parents of students in 15 target schools in 3 municipalities including identifying reference group members for the “CWR” program. In the same year training of trainers for 30 teachers from 15 schools was also held including conducting an impact assessment of the training on parents.
As a result, Ministry of Education at national, municipalities and administrative posts levels are well informed and aware of the importance of CWR and gender-responsive parenting curriculum to students, teachers and parents. Besides, parents are well equipped with prevention knowledge and skills, particularly on how to build positive and healthy relationship amongst parents, students and school for productive teaching learning process. Parents started to treat their children equally, regardless of their sex. For example, they encourage their children, boys and girls to wash dishes. Furthermore, 30 teachers are aware the importance to create a gender-friendly class during their teaching learning process and ready to apply CWR sessions to their students.
“Upgrading parents’ knowledge and skills regarding the gender equality and respectfully relationship is central to the development of children-students as it could open the possibility of active participation of parents to support schools in teaching and educating their children in healthy and respectful relationships. Therefore, having a Connect With Respect and gender-responsive parenting curriculum to teachers is necessary”, said CEO’s of Alola Foundation, Mrs. Maria Guterres.
During the two days of activities, members of the CWR reference group from both the national and municipal levels not only understood more about the contents of the “Connect With Respect” Guidelines but were also involved in formulating strategies and activities for related groups in relation to efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women and children in the school, family and community environment. The guide for the “CWR” program consists of seven topics: (1) Gender and Equality; (2) Model of Gender Equality and Positive Example; (3) Awareness of Gender Based Violence; (4) Focus on Gender Based Violence in Schools; (5) Communication in Respectful Relations; (6) Ability of Witnesses to Violence; (7) The ability to seek and support each other.
“From our side we hope that this reference group can become a strong group,” said Dario F. D. de Sousa, National Program Officer (NPO) – UN Women Timor-Leste.
The Spotlight Initiative is a multi-year partnership between European Union and United Nations with a global investment of $550 million by the European Union. In Timor-Leste, the three-year investment of the initiative USD 15 million, and aims to strengthen the country’s legal frameworks and institutions, promote positive social norms, increase access to support services for survivors of violence, improve the collection and use of data for better policy making and to strengthen partnerships with CSOs.
“To effectively respond to Gender Based Violence, the Spotlight Initiative, funded by the European Union, has brought us all together since 2020: individuals, families, communities, village leadership, schools, churches, media, youth, and people with disabilities, LGBTI, civil society, ministries, government and development partners. Gender-based violence affects the whole of society, so the whole of society has to respond to it. Even a global pandemic could not stop us. Our work carried on.” expressed Mr. Andrew Jacobs, the European Union Ambassador to Timor-Leste when giving a speech at the presentation of the results of the CWR program on City 8 Hall Dili, last year.
Complementing the government’s efforts to End Violence Against Women and Girls (EVAWG) in Timor-Leste under the Secretary of Estate of Equality and Inclusion (in Portuguese SEII)’s mandate, Alola Foundation and Mane ho Vizaun Foun stand among key actors from CSOs, NGOs, I-NGOs, and development agencies. SEII as the women’s machinery with the mandate to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, have been actively showing the leadership in the Spotlight Initiative (SI) since the start. The Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion, Maria do Rosario Fatima Correia noticed the progress from the SI in complementing to government’s efforts of EVAWG.
“Spotlight through Alola and Mane ho Vizaun Foun has been providing significant contribution to the prevention work by continuously providing training of Connect With Respect and gender-responsive parenting curriculum to students, parents, and teachers. This is a good start to help children-students by involving parents and schools in promoting and instilling the value of respect and ways of showing respect to all people in the family, school, and community, regardless of their sex, culture, and social background”, explained The Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion, Maria do Rosario Fatima Correia giving a speech at the presentation of the results of the CWR program on City 8 Hall Dili, last year.
Five UN agencies (UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP, UNICEF, and ILO) are responsible for the implementation of Spotlight under the coordination of its Resident Coordinator. They work with key actors from government, CSOs, NGOs and I-NGOs in Dili, Viqueque, Ermera and Bobonaro and assist them in rolling out the initiative. As part of UN Timor-Leste’s contribution to complement the government and global efforts on EVAWG and aim to reach SDG goals, specifically number 5, it empowers partners and supports the efforts of EVAWG.
“Violence has never been an in-built part of human behavior or conditioning. We can pre-empt and prevent violence. The sessions of Connect With Respect and gender responsive parenting curriculum contribute a component of a whole-school approach which aims to engage teachers, parents and students in understanding the consequences of violence against women and girls, work with schools to promote respectful relationships and gender equality and raise visibility of the issue in schools and communities”, said Roy Trivedy, former UN Resident Coordinator.