The Coronavirus pandemic has caused massive disruption around the world, affecting communities everywhere and making it more difficult for USAID colleagues to get out and to monitor and evaluate activities. USAID/Timor-Leste is adapting to these COVID-19 challenges by using technology to monitor assistance, understand the challenges and lessons learned, measure impact, and capture best practices.

Germano “Jerry” da Costa Boavida is a Project Management Specialist at USAID/Timor-Leste who recently started reaching for his mobile phone to see what is going on in the field to help end violence against women and children in Timor-Leste.  With movement limited to an ongoing state of emergency, he was unable to travel to two sites, but showed his resourcefulness by having the USAID’s Harmonia Communities Ending Gender-Based Violence Activity contact him virtually over video conference to monitor community micro-planning training in two villages in Liquica and Ermera municipalities.

“This enabled me to follow the sessions where the facilitators explained among other about the gist of the law against domestic violence, concept and measures preventing gender-based violence, gender and sex concept, referral service, and developing village level action plans,” Jerry said.


During the interactive training, the participants, including the village chief, community police, members of village council including women and men youth representatives, shared their views about causes of gender-based violence ranging from patriarchal society, power imbalance between men and women within the society and in the household, lack of education, especially education for women and girls, economic problems, and poverty in general. 

“Participants shared their opinions on what they think are bad and good behaviors that contribute to or could prevent gender-based violence,” Jerry said. 

Discussions focused on real issues facing these communities. Rates of gender-based violence are high in Timor-Leste, where 59 percent of women aged 15 to 49 years have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes.  Violence starts young, with 43 percent of young women aged 15 to 24 having experienced physical violence in the past 12 months. 

“In Liquica the biggest problem is domestic violence,” said Administrador of Bazarte Administrative post in Liquica municipality. “We have tried a number of ways to reduce the number of domestic violence cases, but they continue to increase. So it’s important that we have partners to support us in this endeavour, to address the problem, so that gender-based violence is no longer a part of our life and we can move on with other things.”

About 15 participants attended the two-day training at each village — the eighth and the final village in each municipality. Both facilitators and participants adhered to COVID-19 prevention protocols, such as by wearing masks and staying outside.

USAID’s Harmonia Communities Ending Gender-Based Violence Activity, implemented by Health Alliance International, will now work with the villages to implement the action plans guiding community-wide information and learning sessions in each village over the next 12 months. The plans set out to change harmful attitudes and social norms that influence rates of gender-based violence and increase community knowledge and helping behavior for people experiencing violence. 

Perhaps Jerry will once again have his phone ready to tune in as the plans unfold into action.

Community leaders and Metagou village authorities discover ways to combat gender-based violence through training monitored virtually from the capital Dili.
USAID’s Harmonia Communities Ending Gender-Based Violence Activity
Timor-Leste Stories