People with disabilities suffer from high levels of discrimination in East Timor which has now been an independent country for two decades. HI works in the country to champion the rights of people with disabilities and to promote their inclusive employment, among other activities. Since 2017, East Timor has been included in a regional programme with the Philippines and Indonesia.
Training organized by HI and its partner, RHTO, the main association of disabled people in the country. | © C. Gillet / HI
People with disabilities in East Timor are often victims of multiple layers of discrimination and even violence due to certain beliefs and traditions, and are unlikely to be able to attend school or find employment.
HI also campaigns to defend the rights of people with disabilities at local and national level and to increase recognition of their right to a life of dignity. The organisation works with disabled people’s organisations to create conditions favourable to the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
East Timor has only been independent since 2002 and living conditions for the population are extremely challenging.
It was a Portuguese colony for four centuries and then in 1975 became the object of military annexation by its Indonesian neighbour, before becoming independent in 2002. The occupation ruined the country and the social and political situation is still precarious. Furthermore, there is also a high risk of natural disasters in East Timor (landslides, floods, violent winds etc.). It is not clear what life is really like for people with disabilities in East Timor, particularly in the inland areas of the country where beliefs and traditions persist in very isolated rural regions. Once thing is certain – their lives are very difficult. People with disabilities face a great deal of stigma, young girls and women with disabilities are often victims of violence and there are no services adapted to the needs of people with disabilities. The newly emerging civil society offers a partial response, but disabled people's organisations are scarce and almost unheard of outside of the capital.