Today was one of the days we have talked about the most in anticipation as we were to visit a women’s shelter and a day care run by one of our partners. This visit was also one of a few changes to the schedule as our delegation was too large to accommodate. It was an easy decision for the group as we cut along gender lines with the 6 women. First though we all met with the staff of Fokupers at their main office to hear about all the activities and goals of the organization which has been in existence since during the Indonesian occupation and has only recently become supported financially by Development and Peace.
Their focus is on helping women who are victimized by violence, especially domestic violence. Their programs include the shelters for women, day care, and advocacy for protection of women and children. As they are recognized by the police and courts as a reliable resource to the community, many of the victims of violence they work with come as a result of the police contacting Fokupers and making the connection. The work then begins to help support these women and children during their struggle and helping them to bring the cases through the court system.
The 6 women of our delegation then visited Fokupers women's shelter in Dili where 9 women and their children were staying. This “Safe House” visit was done with a degree of security as this location is highly secretive. No pictures of course. Here the women can stay for 2 weeks though due to the slow legal system, many women stay longer even up to a year. For Fokupors these shelters both in Dili and in the districts are a major focus of the organization especially with the associated ongoing follow up work and family counseling. It was a great visit with open dialogue and all were eager to show off their meagerly furnished center. Though most of their appliances and furniture were broken, there was a high degree of pride especially when it came to the care of their children and the handicrafts they made and sold to our group.
In the afternoon we met with Progressio which was formally called Catholic Institute of International Relations. They focus on providing capacity building to NGOs, grassroots “partners” and advocacy. We met with 3 of their volunteers called “Development Workers” who came from the Netherlands, Australia and the Philippines. We listened with keen interest on how they deliver these programs by helping to develop in others critical thinking skills, and helping people to learn analytical thinking skills. Here we really got into some of the complex issues related to language or the many languages in Timor Leste. In this country all the laws and court findings are written in Portuguese though the Timorese generally only speak either Tetum and/or Bahasa and have a desire to learn English but very few of the younger working class speak Portuguese. They also raised the controversy of land ownership as many tracts of land have 2 or 3 separate titles, coming from Portuguese times and Indonesian times with direct title or land use rights.
It’s no wonder it takes a long to bring in a new civil society.
Dorothy, Dick, Mary and Paul