Community Dialogue Moves People to Tears and Action
- The scene of the seething man, the angry wife and the cowering daughter was all an act.
- DPBSC has been using this unique and innovative theatre forum as an instrument to prevent conflict and build peace in the communities across the country.
- “Women need training so we can get jobs and help our families.”
29 July 2013, Pairara suco, Lautem District– Belita dos Santos soft brown eyes swelled with tears as she watched a man shove and scream at his wife and beat his daughter. Having drunk away the family’s money, he had been unable to pay for the young girl’s schooling, which was an ongoing source of conflict in their house. Now he’d learned his daughter was pregnant and in a rage he’d taken a log to her back. (Lee versaun Tetum iha ne'e)
The scene of the seething man, the angry wife and the cowering daughter was all an act. But for Belita, it was all too real, an accurate reflection of the kind of violence she, her family and friends lived through or witnessed all too often.
“It was like real life,” she said as she wiped away a few last tears. “We all know these people. We live with them, or next door to them, or they are married to a relative. It’s very hard to watch.”
Belita and about 100 men, women and children from the Lospalos sub-district where Pairara is located were taking part in an interactive forum theatre presentation, part of day-long community dialogue on Women, Peace and Security (WPBS). A joint UNDP and UN Women initiative supported by the European Union, the WPBS programme is working to increase women’s participation in peacebuilding and post-conflict planning processes.
The event was organized by the Department of Peace Building and Social Cohesion (DPBSC) of the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) with the support of UNDP. DPBSC has been using this unique and innovative theatre forum as an instrument to prevent conflict and build peace in the communities across the country.
Following the performance, the community members engaged in a discussion with district and community leaders on the many concerns they are facing, particularly those that deal with harmony within the family and larger community. One particular concern was the role poverty and unemployment, particularly women’s unemployment, plays on domestic and community violence.
“We need more gender equity here in Lospalos,” said Fernanda Veira da Costa, a community leader who frequently represents the local women at national gatherings. “Women need training so we can get jobs and help our families.”
Their call for action is getting results. As part of his remarks, Julio Maria de Jesus, Deputy District Administrator of Lautem and President of the Working Group for Gender Equality, announced that a computer and skills training center would be included in the district’s 2014 budget which met with general approval by the participants.
“The issues that were raised during the meeting are relevant since these things happen here in Lautem,” said Deputy Administrator de Jesus. “I hope the DPBSC-MSS team will organize more community meetings in the villages in Lautem to provide opportunities for men and women to discuss issues that are faced by the community such as domestic violence, land property rights and to promote role of women in peace-building”.
Also participating in the dialogue were a representative from PNTL for the Lospalos sub-District, the Director of the Land and Property Directorate for Lautem district, the Director of the Provedoria for Human Rights and Justice (Ombudsman) for the Baucau region, community leaders in Pairara and surrounding villages and representatives from UNDP.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network, working in 177 countries and territories. In Timor-Leste, UNDP provides technical advice and assistance to build strong and capable public institutions at national and sub-national levels in justice, parliament, human rights, anti-corruption, police, economic development, environmental management and disaster risk management that bring development, peace and justice to the population and reach out to the poor and vulnerable sections of society.