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26 November 2008

UNIFEM: Ending Violence against Women Reaffirms East Timor's Commitment to Respect Human Rights

UNIFEM PRESS RELEASE - Dili, 25 November 2008 – The Vice Prime Minister, Dr. Jose Luis Gutteres annd the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI) has today, 25 November 2008 officiated East Timor's 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence in Maliana. This year's global theme for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is Human Rights for women – Human rights for all while the natioonal theme is End Violence – Give Access to Justice ffor Women and Create Economic Sustainability.

Gender violence is one of the serious social problems affecting women in East Timor. During the first six months of this year, 336 cases of Domestic Violence (DV) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) have been reported to Vulnerable Persons Units (VPUs) from all the 13 districts. Of all the reported cases, Dili has registered the highest number of violence. Speaking on behalf of SEPI, the Vice Health Minister Madalena Fernandes Hanjam says it is important for the nation to respect human rights in promoting gender equality and peace in the country and urges everyone to work diligently to achieve this goal. "I encourage all constituents – international and local organizations to focus their attention on activities that will address the many human rights challenges facing women in our country and to support the women leadership in defending human rights". The Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Governance Support, Development and Humanitarian Coordination, Finn Reske-Nielsen who is also the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, says "the Domestic Violence Law which is yet to be approved by parliament is so significant to the nation because it will help the law enforcers to bring to justice the perpetrators of violence who are infringing upon women's rights".

The Timorese Government showed its commitment to end violence against women when the President of National Assembly, Fernando Lasama de Araujo officially launched UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence against Women campaign on 10 September 2008. By signing on to the campaign, the government was supporting the UN Secretary-General's multi-year campaign to end violence against women, which aims to engage male leaders and mobilize men and boys as partners with women and girls to put a stop to violence against women. Since the start of the collection of signatures, the Say No to Violence campaign in Timor-Leste has amassed 14,906 signatures from people from all walks of life – school children, the police, teachers, goverrnment servants, etc. This shows the ever-growing interest of people to express public support, to raise their voices and demand action from government to end violence against women.

This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948. It is a powerful instrument that has an enormous effect on people's lives all over the world since it used in the defence of and for the advancement of the inherent rights of all people without any form of discrimination. The Declaration, which comprises a broad range of rights, has also inspired other human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). CEDAW is the sole international legal instrument specifically designed to promote and protect women's rights in a holistic and systematic way. Timor-Leste is a signatory to the CEDAW Convention and its constitution consecrate various rules to uphold respect for human rights for its citizens including women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The 16 Days of activism will be marked with various activities including radio and television discussion programmes and also workshops conducted by SEPI and NGOs throughout the country, intensifying public awareness on ending violence against women.

UNIFEM is the women's fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programmes and strategies that promote women's human rights, political participation and economic security. UNIFEM works in partnership with UN organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations and networks to promote gender equality. It links women's issues and concerns to national, regional and global agendas by fostering collaboration and providing technical expertise on gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment strategies.

For more information please contact: Gerald Nyamatcherenga Communications Specialist UNIFEM East Timor E-mail: gerald.nyamatcherenga@unifem.org www.unifem.org Phone: +670-3313294. Ext.2115 Mobile: +670-7413276

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