Safe Baucau and Safe Market task force paves way for a Generation Equality and safer Baucau for all

Date: Friday, May 29, 2020

Launching of the Safe Baucau Market’s taskforce. Photo: TOMAK / Isaac

The Baucau Municipal Authority (BMA) launched a Safe Baucau and Safe Markets Technical Working Group (TWG) in commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) in Baucau. The TWG is composed of voluntary members from local government, veterans, the Baucau Women’s Association, private sector, organizations of persons with disabilities, church and youth groups, with participation of the State Secretary for Equality and Inclusion and head of the National Parliamentary Committee for Gender Equality.

The TWG was formed to create a safer market space for women vendors, who represent the majority of vendors in the marketplaces. A safer market environment enhances women’s economic opportunities, empowering them to contribute to their own and their family’s well-being. The TWG will support local authorities with technical advice and promote the needs of vendors and communities in the markets. 

The TWG launch comes one year after President of BMA, Mr. Antonio A. Guterres, joined other stakeholders in signing a Safe City and Safe Market commitment in collaboration with UN Women and the nutrition-sensitive agriculture programme TOMAK. President Guterres acknowledged the need to take action, noting, “sexual harassment is a form of violence in public places which is considered a universal issue for women and girls in Timor-Leste. Due to this issue, we requested TOMAK and UN Women’s support, and municipal authorities are ready to take part and respond to these acts of violence if they continue in our municipality. It’s all of our responsibility to prevent it, in order to see in our society that both men and women are safe being in public spaces.”

The UN Women and TOMAK partnership was initiated through a joint “Gender Marketplace Assessment” conducted in 2018 in two markets in Baucau (Venilale and Kota Lama). The Assessment highlighted that vendors have limited access to social protection systems, public assistance and sustainable infrastructure. These conditions lead to insecure environments placing vendors at risk of sexual harassment and assault.

In addition to women’s safety in public spaces, State Secretary of Equality and Inclusion, H.E, Maria Jóse Fonseca Monteiro de Jesus, noted the link between economic empowerment and reducing violence at home. “Many women become victims because they don’t have their own income to manage and rely on their husbands’ income. This is a factor contributing to domestic violence.”

The diverse TWG members reflect the 2020 IWD theme, “I am Generation Equality”, which reminds us that all people need to be involved for the world to reach the global target of gender equality by 2030.  Markets are not just a space for economic activity, they have an important role for social cohesion and local development. “We are hoping this initiative will build a Generation Equality to realize women’s and girls’ rights. A safe Baucau for women and girls is a safe Baucau for all of us,” said President Guterres.