The Asia Foundation: Nabilan

Creating a framework for a technology-based domestic violence intervention.

  • Timor-Leste
  • 12
    days in-country

Across Timor-Leste, approximately 75% of women and men have experienced physical or sexual abuse during childhood. In light of this, The Asia Foundation engaged S1T2 to provide technical advice on how technology could be used to address the issue of domestic violence in the country. After conducting in-depth desk research and embarking on an intensive two-week Discovery mission, S1T2 provided a framework for how a technology-based domestic violence intervention could be successfully piloted in Timor-Leste.

Understanding the issue


Across Timor-Leste, there are widespread experiences of violence against women. The Asia Foundation’s Health and Life Experiences Baseline Study found that 59% of ever-partnered women aged between 15 and 49 years had experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, and  47% had experienced violence in the previous 12 months.

Graphic design shows icons of three women who have experienced non-visible domestic violence, and one who has been injured from it.

Despite its prevalence, few survivors seek help. It is thought that social norms may be prohibiting support for women in need. These same social norms are also complicit in the systemic perpetration of violence. As such, efforts to address domestic and gender-based violence must look to transform community values and gender dynamics to prevent violence.

Two women sit at a market in Timor-Leste.

An opportunity for change

Brief + Scope
Colourful pattern created as part of a mural in Timor-Leste.

In an effort to tackle gender-based violence in Timor-Leste, The Asia Foundation has developed the Nabilan Program. First piloted in 2015, this intervention uses a community-based approach to foster social change on domestic violence.

As part of Nabilan’s second phase, we worked with The Asia Foundation team to explore the opportunity of harnessing growing rates of technology use in Timor-Leste to empower young people to engage in healthy relationships and help-seeking behaviours.

Learning from others

Literature Review

The first step in the consultation process was desk research. After familiarising ourselves with the Nabilan program to date, we conducted an in-depth literature review. The goal of this research was to understand the potential for technology-driven interventions targeting domestic violence. We focused on exploring how social media, mobile phones, games and other technologies could be used to address attitudinal and behavioural shifts related to domestic violence. What we found would give us a baseline for what approaches may or may not be useful.

Collection of scholarly articles included in the literature review for Nabilan Program.

Gaining first-hand experience

Discovery Mission

Having completed the initial round of research, we embarked on a nine-day discovery mission in Timor-Leste. During this mission, we immersed ourselves in the local landscape and culture. We also conducted interviews and structured workshops with key stakeholders, domestic violence advocates, local students and technology experts.

View from a rooftop looking out over houses in Dili, Timor-Leste.

The discovery mission gave us a more comprehensive understanding of the cultural context and existing program response to gender-based and domestic violence in Timor-Leste. We then worked to combine this understanding with our desk research to develop a framework for how a technology-based intervention could address social norms around domestic violence.

A Timorese woman shows a colourful pamphlet while sitting next to a man.

A collaborative design approach

Interviews + Workshops

A crucial part of our discovery process in Timor-Leste was to collaborate with people and organisations on the ground. To do so, we met with key stakeholders and individuals who had experience working within the subject matter of healthy relationships, domestic violence and/or sexual harassment. We also spoke with organisations that have already developed or implemented technological solutions in a Timorese context.

These interviews and workshops helped us to understand the complexity of the issue in greater depth, and to anticipate the opportunities and challenges a technological intervention might face in Timor-Leste.

Aiyana Merlo from S1T2 conducts a stakeholder workshop in Timor-Leste.

Increased impact through partnerships

Partner Engagement

We also used our time in Timor-Leste to meet with as many like-minded organisations as possible. This included other nonprofits and government entities targeting women's rights and domestic violence, as well as a number of social enterprises working to provide support to Timorese people through various avenues.

Through these meetings we were able to establish the foundation for a network-centred approach to innovation. This became a vital pillar of our recommended framework for the sustainable design, development and deployment of a technology-driven intervention targeting healthy relationships and gender-based violence.

Collection of logos from the partners interviewed by S1T2 during their Discovery Mission in Timor-Leste.

Recommendations for future development

Final Report

The final stage of our consultancy with The Asia Foundation’s Nabilan program culminated in the creation of a final report synthesising our learnings and formulating a strategy for moving forward. While initially conceptualised as a set of recommendations for moving forward, the final deliverable included not only an overview of our research, but also a comprehensive framework for how the Nabilan Program could implement a technological intervention for domestic violence in Timor Leste.

Mural from Timor-Leste shows a child in front of a colourful patterned background.
Colourful pattern created as part of a mural in Timor-Leste.

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