The Thaise is a beautiful traditional Timorese cloth whose creation brings together the collective strengths of communities. Since 2006 IICRD has been helping the government of Timor Leste weave a fabric of an innovative child protection system literally that combines the mutually reinforcing strengths of children and their culture. The IICRD team, lead by Cheryl Heykoop, Micheal Montgommery and Philip Cook, are partnered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) and UNICFE in developing the capacity of the country’s newly created Child Protection Officer’s (CPO’s) following the civil war and conflict with Indonesia. Since gaining Independence Timor Leste has been struggling with rebuilding an autonomous, Timorese system of government while also recovering from the trauma of years of conflict and war. In a country where the majority of the population is under the age of 25, children and youth have been both the greatest protagonists and victims in this struggle and represent not only the future of this small country in the South Pacific ,but also very much the focus of present rebuilding and reconciliation.
IICRD’s role in this process has been to assist in designing and delivering a system of child protection that both addresses child and family vulnerability from violence, extreme poverty, and challenges in harmonizing traditional justice systems with women and children’s rights. Our partnership has run for two years and is due to extend for at least another year through the support of UNICEF Timor Leste. Cheryl, Micheal and Philip recent work has focused on developing the Child Protection Officers’ knowledge, skills and self-awareness in child protection case management using strength based, community development approaches, applying child protection mediation tools in family and community restorative practice, and introducing a rights based monitoring and evaluation process that build on IICRD’s Rights Circle approach of Mapping, Engaging, Planning, and Creating social change. All of this work balances a focus on child rights, well being and agency with a set of practical tools that assist CPO’s identify and reinforce local strengths at the level of the child, family, community and traditional Timorese tribal culture – weaving the best of age old traditions and human rights standards for children one from “the village up”.