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International Partnerships

Civil society leads climate action in Timor Leste

Advocating for climate action

Globally, countries are being encouraged to update their plans to curb climate change, as weather patterns become more unpredictable, and the frequency and intensity of disasters increase.

Timor-Leste, or East Timor, is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, heavy rainfall and droughts. The problem is exacerbated by many factors, like high poverty rates, dependence on climate-sensitive livelihoods, increasing environmental degradation, and limited institutional capacity and infrastructure.

Civil society must hold centre stage in climate action policies. That is why Plan International has joined forces with local communities, authorities and civil society organisations in Timor-Leste to work together to strengthen the ability of civil society to better prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change, while promoting gender-sensitive and socially inclusive policies. To do so, thanks to funding from the European Union, Plan International supported Village Disaster and Climate Management Councils, or VDCMCs, local-level decision-making bodies that work on disaster preparedness and climate management actions at village level.

Team presentation of risk assessment calendar, Timor Leste.
Team presentation of risk assessment calendar, Timor Leste. © Plan International
Plan International

Meet one of the women driving change in her community

In Timor-Leste, women’s knowledge and leadership skills are proving to be fundamental to reverse adverse climatic conditions. One of the central voices in the climate discussion in the country is Francisca, village Chief of Metiaut, close to the capital Dili, who advocates for increasing women’s role as guardians of the environment.

Francisca leads the work of 8 members of the local VDCMC in climate-related planning and actions – but that’s not all. On top of her role in the council, she takes care of her family and is the Chief of the Metiaut Women’s Youth Group.

Francisca during a team presentation of risk assessment calendar, Timor Leste.
Francisca during a team presentation of risk assessment calendar. © Plan International
Plan International

While campaigning to become a VDCMC Chief, Francisca wanted to represent women who have been voiceless. She wanted to show that women can and should be part of the solution and improve decision-making for disaster and climate management. And it worked!

When I was elected President of the VDCMC, I felt happy and proud of myself. This was the first opportunity for me to lead and make decisions towards climate management and reducing disasters.


She now encourages other women to participate and work together to influence authorities so that they take proper action for climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Her role as Chief keeps her busy. “I have participated in climate change adaptation workshops at village level, developed responsibilities for the VDCMC group and developed the local action plan for disaster and climate change adaption. I have also worked with teachers and students in primary schools to integrate their proposals into the municipal action plan.”

Unsurprisingly, her work is already producing results. “The municipal authorities were very positive to our presentation on the adaptive plans and I expect our planning to be implemented with the support of relevant institutions at the municipal level.”

Together with Francisca, 25 local civil society organisations, and over 100,000 people benefit from the project, that covers 17 villages around Timor-Leste.

Looking to the future

Francisca and other participants in the project have been receiving training on climate change, and good policy and practices to mitigate its impact. Project partners also worked together with communities on awareness-raising activities on the effects of climate change and climate-smart responses at local level.

From early on, the project aspired to include women and girls in a meaningful and impactful way. Plan International also organised discussions dedicated specifically to women and girls, with a focus on how they can ensure that female representatives are part of the hazard vulnerability and capacity assessment processes.

As a result, women currently represent 31% of the Village Disaster and Climate Management Councils and are leading them in 3 villages. For the success of disaster climate management strategies, it’s vital that women have a seat at the table, sharing their voices and solutions.

Team preparation of templates on risk assessment activities.
Team preparation of templates on risk assessment activities. © Plan International
Plan International