A strong partnership to boost access to WASH services by balancing gender roles in Timor-Leste

an awareness-raising session to bring about a more equal distribution of WASH and domestic labour in a community in Timor-Leste

GFFTL deliver an awareness-raising session to bring about a more equal distribution of WASH and domestic labour. (WaterAid Timor-Leste)


The first lady of Timor-Leste has highlighted the role of women in securing safe water for their families amid a national push for gender equality in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.


First Lady Cidália Lopes Nobre Mouzinho Guterres said: “Clean water issues happen not only here (Aldeia Ailelehun) but even in Dili. This means many women and girls need to make a lot of extra effort to walk and collect water from a distance. This is a serious issue, and the government must put high priority to this matter.”


She was speaking at a Global Handwashing Day event organised by gender equality proponents, Grupu Feto Foinsa’e Timor-Leste (GFFTL), an implementing partner on WaterAid’s Water for Women Project. GFFTL is leading community awareness-raising sessions for more equal distribution of WASH-related domestic labour between men and women, as a way to boost access to services.


The group has also been revisiting communities in rural areas, after WASH projects, for evidence of changes in gender-based roles and divisions of labour. It will release the results in coming months. Feedback from the community conversations will also inform advocacy materials and messages for national leaders.


GFFTL has a long and proud history of gender-equality activism. Founded in 1998, it advocated for women's political participation and leadership during Timor-Leste's independence process and has remained active ever since. GFFTL’s skills in addressing gender norms and engaging communities in conversations about women's rights are fundamental to driving transformative change.


WaterAid joined forces with GFFTL in 2019 to deepen collaboration with women’s rights groups. The partnership highlights the value of non-governmental organisations working with human rights organisations, to fuel change. Strong partnerships with local rights holder organisations (RHO) in country is an important approach of all Water for Women projects, supported by the Australian Government. Partnerships create more effective outcomes in WASH, but also play a role in strengthening approaches and systems and even influencing national conversations and policy as the GFFTL and WaterAid collaboration is demonstrating.


The GFFTL team is using its participation in existing gender forums to highlight rural gender and WASH issues, including, engaging the Women's Parliamentary Group of Timor-Leste (GMPTL), the State Secretary for Equity and Inclusion (SEII) and the National Women's Network (Rede Feto).


Gender equality and social inclusion are central to Water for Women as actively involving all people within communities (women, men, marginalised groups, people with disabilities) ensures more equitable and inclusive access, including to water.  Cohesive and socially inclusive communities are naturally more resilient, including to shocks from a changing climate and they are more likely to have effective and sustainable outcomes in WASH.


This partnership is going from strength to strength on their mission for greater gender equality through WASH in Timor-Leste.

The value of water is about much more than its price – in communities, households, schools and workplaces, water means health, hygiene, dignity, productivity and more.


Throughout March, for International Women's Day and World Water Day, we are celebrating the value of women and the value of water. Both are critical to building healthy and climate-resilient communities. 


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