Timor-Leste: Juventude ba Dezenvolvimentu Násional (JDN)

Partnership established: 2021

“We want women to live in the fairer society where there is no discrimination against them. We also want young women to be safe when using public transportation and walking on the street.  We believe that young women can become activists on this issue in Timor-Leste” – JDN

JDN is a dynamic youth-led, community-based organisation based in Dili, Timor-Leste. It was established in 2014 when a group of young people aged 17 – 24 years came together to discuss the issues impacting their lives. JDN engages a membership of over 200 young people in discussion and action on key issues and builds their leadership capacity so youth voices play a role in nation-building in Timor-Leste. Their programs are identified, designed and delivered by young people.

Timor-Leste is one of the world’s youngest countries and despite making impressive progress since independence, it remains one of the most disadvantaged countries in South East Asia. According to the most recent census in 2015 census, 60.7% of the total population is under 25 years, of whom 21% are aged 15-24 years. Youth unemployment and disadvantage is a critical issue and there are limited industries in which young people can find employment.

JDN work across a number of issues, including education programs for young women on nutrition, public health work on covid-19 prevention and small income generating activities including JDN history tours and sexual and reproductive health. But one of the key concerns raised by the young people that JDN works with was gender-based violence and harassment. Over the past 12 months, JDN has collected case studies from 80 young women to understand the different ways in which young women experience violence and harassment, in the home but also in public and particularly on Timor Leste’s common public transport modes of microlet and taxi.

“Hello, my name is Anália. I’m currently working as a coordinator for our Sexual Harassment project in JDN and I’m a tour guide for the Women of Timor-Leste Tour. Through JDN I want to work with many young women in preventing sexual harassment by doing workshops and giving them courage to say no to sexual harassment in our society. JDN has helped me gain more experience and build my leadership skills to increase my opportunities in the future. I hope my contribution in JDN especially in preventing sexual harassment, will help other young women in Timor-Leste to live in a fairer society.”

According to the Nabilan Health and Life Experiences Study into intimate partner violence, 59% of women aged 15 – 49 who had ever been in a relationship reported having experienced some form of physical or sexual partner violence; 47% had experienced this in the 12 months before they were interviewed. JDN writes “In Timor-Leste young women are treated unequally and often discriminated by men. There are many issues facing young women and sexual harassment is one of those. Here in Timor, people regard sexual harassment as a normal behaviour but in fact it is wrong and it is a disrespectful behaviour towards women and it happens everywhere. As a youth organisation, we want to help and encourage young women to recognise that this issue is a bad action that can affect the woman’s rights and life as well.”

JDN have a plan to make public spaces safer and to reduce the incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination. They want to empower young women and men to take action in their family, community and on public transport and to develop collectives of young women that understand their rights and have skills and confidence to stand up to sexual harassment and discrimination. They want to advocate for systems change, stronger regulation and training of drivers in public transport. And they want to involve young men in challenging behaviours and gender stereo types.

JDN will do this through “education, life skills training, responsive actions and advocacy”. In 2022 this work includes:

  • Running 10 workshops in the first year and setting up support structures including online chat rooms, WhatsApp groups and face-to-face gatherings to share experiences and take action
  • Establishing a network of Young Women’s Advocacy Groups to push for the implementation of a Code of Conduct for microlet drivers and reporting on findings of interviews with microlet drivers
  • Engaging young men as advocates for change