By Helio Miguel de Araujo
National Communications Officer
UN Women Timor-Leste
Ana Paula Soares, 27, recently had to stop working as a domestic worker after the Government of Timor-Leste on March 28 declared a State of Emergency to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
"Starting from this month, I won’t go to work. My family and I are sad that I can’t earn money anymore to help the family and pay for my nephews and nieces’ education.
After high school graduation in 2011, I wanted to pursue a university degree, but then I realized that I could never afford it. So I decided to work and sustain myself and my family.
During the past year, I’ve been working as a domestic worker in a household in the capital, Dili, and live with my employer. I got the job through the non-governmental organization Working Women’s Centre Timor-Leste (WWCTL), which supports employment opportunities, training and advocacy for domestic workers.
Now with the State of Emergency, I’ve been asked to take a one-month break to go back to my family as part of COVID-19 prevention efforts. The WWCTL manager had a discussion with my employer, and I was informed just one night before that I would have to return to my village the next morning.
I was told that I could return to work on April 27, when the State of Emergency is over. However, with more positive COVID-19 cases registered, it is not certain if I’ll be allowed to go back by the determined time. I’ll just wait for the call, and I’m hoping that things will get better so I can have my job back. Otherwise, I’ll stay at home to help my family look after our kiosk to earn some money.
Being home with my sisters and the kids has been fun, but it’s hard to make money at this time. People who work in offices continue to work from home and earn their salary regularly, but domestic workers cannot. I wish we could have a salary during emergency times, because we work many hours and on the weekends too.
Some of my domestic worker colleagues are still working. Only five of us have been asked to take a one-month break due to COVID-19. My friend and I helped our three friends with transport back to their homes because unlike us, they didn’t receive their salaries when they were asked to stop in the middle of the month. I wish all employers could treat their employees equally."
Ana Paula Soares was born to a family with limited income in Ermera, a municipality in central Timor-Leste. Her parents and her eldest sister have died. She now is staying in her village in Ermera with her two other sisters and their families while waiting to be called back to work. UN Women, under its Women’s Economic Empowerment Programme, collaborates with the Working Women’s Centre Timor-Leste to help domestic workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This work promotes United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5, on Gender Equality, and Goal 8, on Decent Work and Economic Growth.