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East Timor

People with disabilities suffer from high levels of discrimination in East Timor, which has been an independent country for less than two decades. Handicap International works in the country to champion the rights of people with disabilities, ensure children with disabilities can attend school, and promote the professional inclusion of young people with disabilities.

Training organized by Handicap International and its partner, RHTO, the main association of disabled people in the country.

© C. Gillet / Handicap International

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People with disabilities in East Timor are 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.

Handicap International is working with the national centre for technical vocational training in Tibar to improve its inclusion of young people with disabilities. In order to facilitate these young people’s professional inclusion, the centre and work spaces are being made accessible, pedagogical methods and programmes are being adapted and awareness is being raised within the community.

Handicap International 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. One aspect of the project is to work towards the implementation of a national plan enabling people with disabilities to be better included in East Timor society. The organisation trains different institutional stakeholders and local organisations working in the sectors of disability and rights, to improve their skills and provide them with tools for developing their own actions.

Areas of intervention


East Timor has only been independent since 2002 and the 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.

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