The State Department is planning to award $496,000 in taxpayer funds to help female weavers in the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste.

The goal of the grant, titled, “Women Weaving a Better Future through Better Business,” is to advance “economic empowerment for women and girls” so they will “avoid abusive relationships, stay in school, become economically self-sufficient, contribute to the evolving economy of Timor-Leste, and promote cultural traditions of Timor-Leste through the modernization of marketing strategies and development of collectives for traditional tapestries.”

The U.S. Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste announced the funding opportunity for a new program with the goal of helping “female artisans develop a sustainable business collective, access international markets, and increase revenue.”

“Independent for just over ten years, Timor-Leste is confronting many challenges as a new nation. Among these, some of the most difficult are endemic rates of gender-based violence, limited economic opportunity, and pressures for girls to terminate education early,” the embassy noted on its website.

In the largely male-dominated culture, “incidents of rape and incest have disproportionately affected school-age girls, forcing them to leave school early,” the embassy noted.

“Teen pregnancies are met with pressure from communities to quit school and marry — often resulting in girls marrying their abusers,” it added. More than 50 percent of women report partner abuse at least once in their lifetime.

“Women are generally restricted from participating in much formal economic work. Instead, they are expected to stay at home and tend to the family. As a result, women often lack resources to leave abusive relationships,” the embassy stated.