Timor-Leste’s marginalized LGBTI community lead front-line response to Cyclone Seroja


Author: Sylvio Bernardo

Some LBT members of Arcoiris who were in the front line supporting the community kitchen. Photo: Arcoiris Timor-Leste
Some LBT members of Arcoiris who were in the front line supporting the community kitchen. Photo: Arcoiris Timor-Leste

English | Tetun

Just one day after Cyclone Seroja hit Dili in April, killing 41 and displacing 4,022, members of the LGBTI community and a joint force from local non-governmental organization Arcoiris set up a community kitchen to provide food and drinking water to more than a thousand people in their neighbourhood of Bidau, in the east of the capital. As the torrential rain swept away belongings and houses, the spirit of solidarity remained firm, as food, clean water, women’s hygiene kits, and essential household goods were supplied to more than 200 families, including material to rebuild houses.

Once the community were aware of the kitchen, several local women volunteered to help using the available food stock in the Arcoiris centre until more supplies arrived.

Once the food was ready, more than 100 people covered in mud came with containers to collect meals for their family,” said Azu a frontline staff member of Arcoiris. Due to the increasing number of people arriving in need of food and other essentials, the kitchen extended their initial one-week service plan to more than two weeks to help families rebuilding and recovering.

This kitchen had also been set up after the March 2020 flood with support from private donors. It distributed food essentials to the LGBTI community supported by Plan International and Outright LGBTI Emergency Action Fund.

Having survived this year’s cyclone, more than 20 LGBTI members quickly organized to support the community, despite being among the affected. According to Azu, many volunteers had to walk great distances to reach the community kitchen. “With no public transportation available, we had to walk here early in the morning and walk back home in the night,” Azu said. “On some occasions, some friends with bikes offered to take us back home, and Plan International provided a motorbike.”

For two weeks, these LGBTI members focused on all aspects of running the kitchen, from building it to collecting supplies, distributing materials, while at the same time helping to rebuild some houses. “[We] are a bit tired now and there is still a lot on the list to be done,” Azu said. A month has passed since the cyclone hit Dili; however, many other organizations are still working at the 17 evacuation centres still open and hosting the displaced people.

Regardless of the ongoing discrimination towards the LGBTI community in the country, these members continue embracing their act of humanity and building a stronger team to serve those in need.

“With big hearts, we are happy that our sense of solidarity is seen as we help the community,” said Azu “This act of love is bigger than anything else. From all these activities, we would also like to tell the community that we will continue to contribute to the community, and this can only get stronger if we are also respected.”

As the rest of the community saw the continuous support from these LGBTIQ members, in the past few days, Azu and his colleagues observed some positive changes in their attitudes towards them. “Now when we pass by and greet the neighbours, they would respond and smile at us, while some even greet us first and call us by our names. Before, you’d never expect this”, said Azu. Two colleagues, Joker and Lula, agreed.

The continued discrimination and non-acceptance from some families and communities led to many LGBTIQ members visiting the Arcoiris centre as they found it a safe space. However, this also led to many losing opportunities for education which caused further barriers in seeking employment. The Arcoiris centre has been offering them work experience and capacity-building opportunities within the centre and through their partnerships.

In the wake of the cyclone and the emotional turmoil and despair brought on by displacement, the Arcoiris members realised that food and sleeping materials were what was really needed. They carried out assessments to understand the magnitude of the destruction, updating each other about households that had not received any support.

The community kitchen is now closed, but their work is still ongoing. “We are still distributing some raw materials to build houses, sharing food, and visiting vulnerable people abandoned by their families,” noted Lula. According to him, their solidarity with the community is founded on the need to support those who are hungry. He believes that every person has the potential to support because once someone has started, there will be people joining to assist. “You shouldn’t be quiet when you see people in need. Once you start to speak up, listen to them and put it to action, it becomes powerful.” Since the community kitchen commenced, it has received support from individuals, agencies, private-sector companies, and diplomatic missions.

Ameta, 24, whose house was destroyed by the flood, expressed his sincere gratitude for the support to his three siblings and mother. “The support from Arcoiris has eased our family’s burden a lot and it truly shows that we are not alone.”

In the past decade, UN Women has been providing support to the LGBTI communities in Timor-Leste through numerous advocacy initiatives in the country. Currently, under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative Programme, UN Women is working alongside Arcoiris and CODIVA as partners to provide more accessible assistance for survivors of gender-based violence, and to ensure such assistance reinforces the rights of women and girls, embracing their sexual orientation and gender identity. This further reinforces the efforts of CODIVA and Arcoiris with their partners to reduce discrimination against members of LGBTI and to create accessible support available to all, ensuring to leave no one behind.

In Timor-Leste, the barriers to ending violence against women and girls are still high, starting at the level of the family, where women and girls first face discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation. “I’m hoping that in the upcoming government response for the flood and recovery efforts, the LGBTI community wouldn’t be excluded from the list,” said Azu. “We believe that it is still happening because many people still don’t understand and still do not embrace our existence.”

Learning from the recent act of solidarity from community to community, these Arcoiris members stated that it is critical to save and support others in times of crisis, setting aside their differences. They emphasised that some support could be offered just by their presence alone and that it does not always require money.


Timor-Leste nia komunidade LGBTI ne’ebé marjinalizadu lidera iha liña frente responde ba Anin-fuik Seroja

Date: Monday, May 17, 2021

Author: Sylvio Bernardo

Some LBT members of Arcoiris who were in the front line supporting the community kitchen. Photo: Arcoiris Timor-Leste
Membru LBT balun husi ARCOIRIS ne’ebé durante ne’e servisu iha liña frente hodi suporta Dapur ba Komunidade. Photo: Arcoiris Timor- Leste

English | Tetun

Loron ida depoizde estragu kauza husi Anin-fuik Seroja iha kapital Dili ne’ebé hamate ema nain 41 no sobu maka’as ema nain 4,022 sira nia hela fatin, membru komunidade LBT husi organizasaun naun-govermental Arcoiris harí kedan dapur ida ba komunidade hodi serve hahan ba ema rihun-ida resin ne’ebé presiza hahan no bé mos ba hemu iha bairu Bidau. Udan ho volume bo’ot ne’ebé estraga ema nia sasan no uma, hamosu solidariedade bo’ot husi komunidade sira ba malu, ba suporta fahe hahan, bé mos, feto sira nia nesesidade no sasan esensiál uma-laran nian ba familia atus-rua resin, inklui material sira hodi hari-hikas fali sira nia uma.

Wainhira viziñu sira hare’e dapur komunidade ne’e prontu ona, feto sira balu mos komesa hakbesik an ona ba ho voluntariu atu ajuda prepara dadauk ona hahan no bé mos sira ne’ebé sentru Arcoiris iha, hodi hein tan suporta mai husi familia no ema seluk. “Wainhira hahan tasak no prontu ona, ema atus-ida resin mai ho ain tahu mak lori sira nia bikan mai suru hahan lori ba sira nia familia,” hateten Azu membru Arcoiris ida ne’ebé mak servisu iha liña frente. Dapur ba komunidade ne’ebé mak planeadu atu loke ba semana ida deit tenke estende ba semana rua tamba haré ba numeru komunidade barak ne’ebé mai nafatin presiza hahan hodi bele rekupera husi kalamidade ne’e. Tinan kotuk 2020, dapur ba komunidade ne’e mos harí ona depoizde inundasaun bo’ot iha fulan Marsu ho suporta husi doador privadu no mos Plan Internasional hodi distribui hahan esensiál sira ba komunidade LGBTI sira tau hamutuk tan ho Fundu Asaun Emerjensia ba komunidade LGBTI nian.

Ho konsege salva an seguru husi Anin-fuik no inundasaun ne’e, membru LBT hamutuk 20 resin iha Arcoiris organiza kedas malu ho lalais hodi suporta komunidade sira mezmu sira rasik mos afeitadu husi estragu ne’e. Tuir Azu katak membru sira barak mak tenke lao ain do’ok durante semana rua nia laran husi sira nia uma hodi ba mai ajuda dapur komunidade ne’e. Azu konta tuir, “transporte públiku mos la halai, entaun ami tenki lao ain dadersan deit atu mai no lao fila-fali ba uma depoizde ajuda komunidade sira. Sorte ba dalaruma iha kolega balu ho motor tula fila no obrigadu barak mos ba Plan International ne’ebé oferese mos motor ida ba ami uza durante hala’o servisu.” Durante semana rua iha dapur komunidade iha sentru Arcoiris ne’e, membru LBT sira ne’e kobre servisu barak hodi funsiona dapur ne’e, komesa husi harí dapur ne’e rasik, kolekta no distribui material sira, to’o ajuda hadia no harí mos uma balu. Agora Azu nota katak, “sira hotu senti kole ituan maibe nafatin sei iha buat barak iha lista atu halo.” Fulan ida resin ona Anin-fuik ne’e ataka kapital Dili; maibe, sei nafatin iha organizasaun barak mak sei servisu hodi suporta sentru evakuasaun sira ne’ebé agora dadauk sei iha 17 mak nafatin loke hodi tau matan ba ema afeitadu sira.

Mesmu diskriminasaun hasoru komunidade LGBTI nafatin akontese iha nasaun ne’e, membru sira ne’e nafatin hakuak aktu humanindade no harí ekipa ida ne’ebé forte liutan hodi serve sira ne’ebé presija tulun. “Ho fuan bo’ot ami kontente ba sentidu solidariedade ne’ebé ami haré iha ita nia komunidade. Asaun ho domin ne’e bo’ot liu fali sasan sira hotu. Husi atividade hirak ne’e, ami mos hakarak hatete ba komunidade sira katak ami sei nafatin kontribui ba komunidade. Tulun ida ne’e sei bele deit sai forte liutan wainhira ita respeitu malu,” haktuir Azu. Wainhira komunidade sira haré suporta ne’ebé kontinua oferese husi membru komunidade LBT ne’e, loron hirak tuir mai Azu ho nia belun LBT sira observa mudansa pozitivu balu ba atitudi komunidade iha bairu laran ba sira. “Agora wainhira ami lao liu mai no komprementa komunidade sira, sira komesa hatan ona no hamnasa mai ami. Iha balu fali, sira mak hasé uluk ami no komesa bolu ona ami nia naran. Antes ne’e buat sira ne’e ita la haré liu,” haktuir Azu. Nia belun Joker no Lula konkorda ho kontenti.

Diskriminasaun sira ne’ebé kontinua lao no mos familia no komunidade ne’ebé nafatin la simu sira, halo membru LGBTI barak tenke ba sentraliza an iha Arcoiris tamba sai ona fatin seguru ba sira. Diskriminasaun sira ne’e mos kauza sira barak lakon oportunidade ba eskola ne’ebé nia konsekuensia mak hamosu bareira ba komunidade LGBTI sira wainhira sai ba buka servisu. Sorti tebes tan durante ne’e sentru Arcoiris mos oferese oportunidade barak ba sira hodi hetan esperiénsia no asesu ba oportunidade treinamentu sira tantu iha sentru Arcoiris nia laran ka liuhusi sira nia servisu parseria sira.

Ho kalamidade husi Anin-fuik ne’e no emosaun ne’ebé kanek no sofrementu sira tamba lakon hela fatin, wainhira tun ba terenu hodi fo suporta, membru Arcoiris sira rekoñese katak hahan no fatin toba mak sai hanesan nesesidade ne’ebé bo’ot liu. Membru Arcoiris sira wainhira lao ba mai, sira mos halo asesmentu hodi haré volume husi estragu ba komunidade sira no pasa kedas informasaun ba malu wainhira sira hasoru familia sira ne’ebé sedauk hetan tulun durante ne’e.

Dapur komunidade husi Arcoiris ne’e taka ona, maibe sira nia servisu sei nafatin lao. “Ami sei nafatin distribui material halo uma nian, fahe hahan no vizita ema vulneravel sira ne’ebé abandona husi familia rasik,” hateten Lula. Tuir Lula nia hare, sira nia solidariedade ba iha komunidade ne’e harí bazeia ba presiza atu suporta komunidade ne’ebé hamlaha tebes. Nia fiar katak ema hotu iha potensia atu kontribui tamba wainhira ema ida komesa bok an, sei iha ema barak mak mai ajuda. “Ita labele nonok deit wainhira haré ema seluk presija tulun. Wainhira ita komesa loke ibun, bok an, no rona ema seluk depois foti ba asaun, ida ne’e sei sai forte tebes.” Dezde dapur komunidade ne’e hahú, hetan ona supporta husi ema individual, ajensia, organizasaun, seitor privadu no mos husi misaun diplomatiku sira.

Ameta, foin sa’e ida ho idade 24 ne’ebé nia uma no sasan barak hetan estraga hotu husi inundasaun ne’e, espresa nia apresiasaun ba suporta ne’ebé nia familia sira kompostu husi nia bin no maun alin nain hat ho nia inan, “suporta husi Arcoiris hakma’an tebes ami familia nia todan no hatudu tebes katak ami la mesak ida.”

Iha dekade pasadu ne’e, UN Women servisu hamutuk no oferese ona suporta ba komunidade LGBTI sira iha Timor-Leste liuhusi suporta inisiativu sira ba advokasia iha nasaun ne’e. Agora dadaun, liuhusi Insiativa Spotlight Uniaun Europeia – Nasoins Unidas, UN Women servisu parseria mos ho Arcoiris no CODIVA hodi oferese asisténsia ne’ebé asesivel liutan ba sobrevivente sira husi violénsia bazeia ba jéneru ida ne’ebé reinforsa direitu feto no labarik feto sira, hodi hakuak ema hotu nia orientasaun seksuál no identidade jéneru. Servisu ida ne’e reinforsa liutan Arcoiris no CODIVA nia esforsu ho parseiru sira hodi redus diskriminasaun hasoru membru LGBTI sira no kria asesibilidade ba suporta sira ne’ebé disponivel ba ema hotu, hodi asegura atu la husik ema ida iha kotuk.

Iha Timor-Leste, bareira ba hapara violénsia hasoru feto no labarik feto sira sei nafatin ás. Komesa husi nivel familia, iha ne’ebé feto no labarik feto sira hasoru diskriminsaun bazeia ba sira nia jéneru no orientasaun seksuál. Rekoñese situasaun ne’e, Azu mos espresa ninia esperansa, “hau hein katak wainhira governu nia responde ba esforsu rekoperasaun ne’e komesa, sei la esklui komunidade LGBTI sira husi lista. Diskriminsaun sei nafatin akontese tamba ema barak sei nafatin sedauk kompriende no sedauk hakuak ami nia ezistensia.”

Aprende husi asaun solidaridade sira foin lalais husi komunidade ba komunidade ne’e, membru Arcoiris sira nota katak kritiku tebes atu salva ema seluk iha tempu krize sein hare ba ema nia diferensia sira. Sira enfatiza katak suporta balu ita bele oferese deit liuhusi ita nia prezensa no suporta hotu la presiza tenke mai ho osan.