Advocating to enshrine equality and climate resilience in Timor-Leste laws

A young woman is crouching within the basin of a community tap stand in a rural village of Timor-Leste. A slow stream of water is flowing from the tap above her and she is smiling at the camera as she cleans the surface with a white cloth.

A young woman conscientiously cleans a central water tap in her village in Timor-Leste (WaterAid Timor-Leste / Jerry Galea)


In Timor-Leste, public water systems and supply are governed by Decree Law No. 4/2004, which establishes “a regime of water distribution for public consumption that welcomes the traditional systems of water distribution and that regulates the responsibilities of the State in this domain.” This includes the creation of water management groups (GMFs) outside urban areas, appointed by the community, who are responsible for overseeing the supply of water.


PN-BESITL, is the national water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) civil society organisation (CSO) network. Supported by Australia through Water for Women, WaterAid partnered with PN-BESITL for research to understand the implementation and effectiveness of this law across rural communities. They observed:

"Water user groups are not able to function properly due to minimum support from the government, therefore, there is diminishing ownership in the community.”


Throughout Timor-Leste, around a quarter of households do not have access to safe drinking water. In rural areas, almost 20% of the population lacks access to a basic water service and more than half lacks access to basic sanitation, which jeopardises potable water supplies and ecosytems. 


Although mandated in Decree Law No. 4/2004, mechanisms to ensure GMFs can access the technical and financial support needed to ensure their functionality and viability are not clearly outlined. This is what drove WaterAid to establish an Association of GMFs (AGMF) in Manufahi and Liquiçá in 2014 and 2010 respectively. A recent review found that GMFs in these municipalities were more active than those in other parts of Timor-Leste.


PN-BESITL and WaterAid have worked with WASH CSO partners to understand the limitations of the current Decree Law. According to Januario, PN-BESITL Coordinator, these discussions found that, “the government diploma is no longer relevant with actual conditions in the community."


Collectively, the group is proposing the inclusion of three additional articles to embed within the law specific GMF support mechanisms, along with climate resilience and gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI) considerations. These align with the Water Resource Management (WRM) Framework proposed by ANAS - the national authority forwateran sanitation, and if endorsed, will enshrine climate resilience and GEDSI elements in law, as well as WASH-specific policies and guidelines.


PN-BESITL is actively advocating for these additions and using them alongside GEDSI tools identified as appropriate for institutionalisation, to enshrine climate resilience and GEDSI within the proposed ANAS National WRM Framework, and also in water supply and management law.


Water for Women partners with WaterAid to deliver HALIRAS BESI — Strengthening connections for equality, resilience, adaptation and sustainability of WASH in the districts of Manufahi and Liquiçá. The project aims to directly benefit an estimated 18,615* people through improved access to climate-resilient and inclusive WASH by the end of this year.


*Project targets are based on partner Civil Society Organisations (CSO) baseline studies. Project targets are updated periodically in response to changes in context as appropriate. To see our latest progress towards targets, see our progress.


World Water Day is observed annually on 22 March and this year's theme, 'Water for peace', emphasises the importance of working together to balance everyone’s needs, to ensure that no one is left behind in access to clean water and safe sanitation, and to make water a catalyst for a more peaceful future. 

As the lifeblood of any community, when water is scarce, polluted, denied or usage unfairly shared, conflicts can arise or intensify. For women and girls, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups, water insecurity exacerbates inequities and has disproportionate impacts, including on their health and well-being. Water conflict also increases the risk of violence.

Throughout the world, women are at the frontlines of climate change and it's impacts on water security. With primary responsibility for meeting caregiving and household water needs, including for sanitation and hygiene (WASH), women are water experts in their communities.

Every day, women are brokering peace, driving sustainable agriculture for food security, and delivering WASH for the health and well-being of their families and communities. Women and water can lead us out of this crisis

But women cannot do it alone. As climate change impacts increase, and populations grow, we must unite to advance gender equality and accelerate progress on SDG6 - Water and sanitation for all. Everyone has a role to play in creating a fairer and more cohesive society

Throughout Asia and the Pacific, Water for Women partners are working with communities, governments, researchers, rights holder organisations, and service providers in 16 countries to deliver climate-resilient and inclusive water and WASH services for all. Together, we are accelerating progress for SDG6 for a water secure and peaceful future for all.



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