Dili, June 6, 2024 – President José Ramos-Horta witnessed the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed at the Nicolau Lobato Presidential Palace, officially launching the ‘Ai-Han Timor’ program aimed at economically empowering women-owned small businesses across Timor-Leste.

The MoU was signed by Chief of Staff Jesuína Maria Ferreira Gomes representing the Presidency of the Republic, Vice Minister of Commerce Augusto Júnior Trindade from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Secretary of State for Equality Elvina de Sousa Carvalho, and Prasantha Manjuka on behalf of Heineken Timor-Leste Company.

Through the Women’s Economic Empowerment Unit under the Presidency, the Ai-Han Timor program will provide training, equipment, and other support to selected women entrepreneurs over the next year, with a possibility of extension for three more years based on an evaluation. The initial beneficiary group includes 10 widows, 6 marginalized individuals, 2 people with disabilities, 2 LGBTQI community members, and 5 youth entrepreneurs. One widow participant expressed gratitude, stating the program will greatly assist in supporting her family.

In his remarks, President Ramos-Horta spoke about the existing initiatives before this program, such as the children’s learning center at the Presidential Palace and the “Dapur ba Povu” (Kitchen for the People) program that provides nutritious food. This year, Dapur ba Povu has already expanded to the LABEH preschool and schools in Hera, benefiting more than 400 underprivileged children, and there are plans to also establish it in Oe-Cusse in the near future.

The ‘Ai-Han Timor’ program aims to economically empower women while promoting local Timorese food products for improved food security. This collaborative effort underscores the government’s commitment to marginalized groups and fostering entrepreneurship.

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