Subject: East Timor: A story of hope and dignity


June 24, 2009...1:54 pm

East Timor: A story of hope and dignity

I had the pleasure of meeting Lita and Mika (both in their mid 20s) who are female sex workers - the most vulnerable groups in terms of HIV and AIDS.

Thanks to training from our partner Caritas Dili on how to prevent infection, they have recently been helping to promote awareness among the many other sex workers living in Dili – encouraging their peers to have regular check- ups.

But I discovered there is so much more to this project than meets the eye.

Importantly, our support is essentially giving these women the chance to get together every three months and discuss other key issues affecting them – such as violence.

And they also discuss how they can get access to new skills that will help them find new ways of making a living.

For example, Caritas Dili is planning to provide computer and sewing training for the group members.

It is so tough for these women to make a big change – Lita and Mika are the breadwinners for their families, with no support from husbands, and children to look after.

Each of them has their own unique story strongly influenced by the conflict, violence and gender inequality in Timor Leste.

Lita and her son, for instance, are separated from Lita’s husband, who is a Timorese from the Indonesian part (West Timor) and chose to stay in Indonesia.

Due to lack of employment opportunities and support for single mothers, Lita ended up as a sex worker, but she said: “I hope one day I can find another way to earn a living.”

Through meeting these courageous people, I have seen for myself what it means when CAFOD says “we believe all human beings have a right to dignity and respect”.

Mika told me that her involvement with the Church through Caritas Dili made her feel respected.

“I didn’t think that the Church would want to have anything to do with us…but they treated us the same as other people,” she says.

These two women in their own ways have helped to promote awareness on HIV/AIDS and the need for standing up against violence.

I am bowing my head to them.

Posted by <> DiniW

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