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On March 8th, 2012, the Office of the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Gender Equality (‘SEPI') celebrated International Women's Day in the Mercado Lama, Dili.  Representatives of senior government officials, UN representatives, civil society, NGO and women's organizations attended the event.  Special messages were delivered to the women, men and children of Timor-Leste echoing the global theme for International Women's Day "Empower Rural Women, End Hunger and Poverty." 

In her opening address H.E. Senora Idelta Maria Rodrigues, the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, spoke about Government efforts to promote gender equality over the past few years.  The Secretary of State acknowledged the support and assistance from UNFPA and other civil society partners in implementing the Laws Against Domestic Violence, the 16 days of activism against violence against women, police trainings on gender based violence investigations and establishing "Uma Mahon" refuge shelters. H.E. Senora pledged SEPI's continued support to promote gender equality and to encourage more Timorese women to become active and involved in politics.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Timor-Leste, Ameerah Haq, said that International Women's Day was a day to take stock of the achievements made by women throughout the world, and to reflect on how to work together to tackle the challenges that remain. Ms. Haq praised the courage and determination of women around the world who fought for education, fought for the right to vote and the Timorese women and girls who fought for independence.  Ms Haq highlighted many positive change that have been taking place in Timor-Leste such as the  increase in the number of women who own small coops and businesses, the increase in the enrollment of girls in schools and women's increased participation in politics. However, Ms. Haq noted, significant challenges remain. Sexual and gender-based violence continues to be a huge problem in this country. Further resources need be mobilized in order to empower the women of Timor-Leste to help achieve gender equality. Ms. Haq spoke of the great need to create a gender responsive environment, to provide long term investment in agriculture to help women generate income, and for rural women to have access to the information, education and services they need to flourish and bring prosperity to this beautiful country. Ms Haq said ‘it is a privilege for the UN to be a partner in these efforts' 

The event also featured a film on the work of SEPI, a photography exhibition, and the presentation of awards given to the Government ministries who promote gender equality. Entertainment was provided by Timorese popstar Cidalia and Indonesian singers - Ikang Fawzi and Krisdayanti and the Timorese theatre group San Antonio who staged a dance performance showing the struggles of Timorese women in recent years. The event also showcased the work of local women's group's handicrafts and produce made in Dili.

The event was supported by UNFPA and other partners.