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"All policy making must be done on the basis of gender mainstreaming. The government must ensure that there is a mechanism which guarantees the rights of women and gender justice in operational funds. This must be done in parallel in the allocation of programs which strengthen civil society and organisations within it which promote women’s issues so as to ensure the effectiveness of advocacy and measures to progressively bring about changes in the lives of women." REDE Feto Timor Lorosa’e (Timorese Women’s Network)

Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e
The East Timor National NGO Forum

Kaikoli Street,  Dili-East Timor  telephone 322772/


CANBERRA June 2001

Produced by REDE Feto Timor Lorosa’e (Timorese Women’s Network)

REDE is a network of East Timorese women which will for the second time represent women at this Donors Conference in order to present the situation facing women in our country. Since the successful Referendum on the 30th August 1999 the gender issue has been one of the issues which has attracted a lot of interest in many circles. This is because the struggle for gender issues will be very different from the struggle during the period of Indonesian military occupation.

During the transition period women’s issues have received considerable attention in spite of the failure of several women’s recommendations in the affirmative action campaign, such as the recommendation for a minimum quota of 30% women in the Constituent Assembly. However the women’s group has not ceased to press for a commitment from the congress as agreed upon and taken up by REDE.

What has happened in East Timor is the same as what has occurred in other developing countries; as has been shown by many investigations, gender inequality is the primary cause of the problems of poverty all over the world. Factors such as unequal access to education and wealth, and having little influence over decision-making lead to women and girls being amongst the poorest people in the world. The Human Development Report of 1995 reported that of the thousand million poor people in the world, 70% were women.

The first Congress of East Timorese Women in June 2000 produced a Platform for Action for Timor Lorosa’e which included the key points from the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) and international agreements about development targets. These points, and indicators to measure progress, must be used to include women’s issues in the planning process of all aid programs for Timor Lorosa’e.

REDE observes that everything is proceeding very slowly at present. There has been no meaningful change in the two years of the transition period. The problems faced by women have not yet experienced much change, health standards remain low, education and other sectors are still bad, because of the poor level of participation of women in decision making.

The sectors given priority as women’s issues to be immediately acted on and included in each planning sector in all aid for East Timor are:

Law :
- In the process of making the constitution there must be a guarantee that women are involved and consulted within each process and in the substance of it so that the problems, hopes and concerns of women can be guaranteed in the constitution of East Timor.
- An International Court is the most pressing demand in the interests of justice. Of all the victims of Indonesian military violence the greatest suffering was borne by women, which up to this time has not yet met with the justice that victims hope for.
- In the year that has passed since separation from Indonesia, cases of domestic violence have been common, one half of cases of violence heard by the courts have been of domestic violence.

Health and family planning:
- In problems of clean water and sanitation it is women who directly experience the effects of poor clean water supply and sanitation.
- Poor access to health services and poor facilities for pregnant mothers lead to inadequate knowledge about care during pregnancy and failure to protect women’s reproductive health.
- Family planning problems and inadequate knowledge of reproductive health result in health problems for mothers and babies due to birth spacing and inadequate nutrition due to economic factors and too many family responsibilities.
- Problems of sexual health and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)  including the discovery of 6 East Timorese infected with HIV/AIDS (reported by the Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili) may become a major problem in East Timor if not dealt with as soon as possible.
- Mental health problems are a major issue. It has become evident that many people are still traumatized, especially women and children who still need to be supported against all forms of mental pressures from the period of violence to the present, and against the trauma of domestic violence.

Education :
- There must be increased efforts to eradicate illiteracy, (64% of women are illiterate), and educational facilities in isolated villages must be improved. Up to the present time access to schools, especially primary schools, is not guaranteed in the rural areas (examples are Suai and Oe-cusse) and many schools do not have tables and chairs.
- There must be guaranteed access to schooling for girls.
- There must be strong support from the government for illiteracy eradication programs run by women’s groups and non-government organisations.

Economy :
- The opportunity to obtain a place for trading in the new markets needs to be guaranteed to the many widows who do not have any source of income other than trading.
- Adequate public transport needs to be available to people in rural areas in order to support their economic activities. Up to the present time there is not yet sufficient well-organized public transport to meet the needs of the village economy.
- There needs to be training in marketing for small-scale farmers so that their produce can reach the market and be sold successfully.
- Coffee farmers must be given appropriate protection because coffee is one of the crops East Timor is dependent on, and farmers are presently suffering serious losses because foreign coffee traders are paying very low prices for the premium organic Timor product.

- There must be good management of urban cleanliness because of the great impact this has on women, particularly pregnant women and children who are vulnerable to disease.
- The environment in several parts of town, especially Dili and several regional towns, is very dirty leaving unpleasant foul smells and predisposing to diseases such as dysentery, malaria, cholera, typhus, diarrhea, worms and  dengue which can affect the community, especially children. There must be urgent attention to these problems.
- One of the consequences of the destruction after independence and recent violence in several districts is the concentration of the population in the bigger cities such as Dili and Baucau. There needs to be a guarantee of sufficient funds for district administration so that people can be persuaded to return to the district and sub-district towns and start rebuilding the villages.

Politics :
- There must be a guarantee that East Timor women are actively involved in the political process, especially after the rejection of the minimum 30% quota system. This particularly applies to the process of preparation for the first General Election for the Constituent Assembly in East Timor.
- There should be improvement of the capacity of women to take part in political processes, such as the training for political candidates, which has been already carried out by the Gender Unit.
- Support for women’s political activities needs to be increased for instance by providing the infrastructure for women’s activities to develop their capacity to take part in each process.
- Recruitment of women to occupy positions within the government must be increased to meet the minimum standard of 30% in each sector.
- The Timorisation of administration as announced by UNTAET has not yet been carried out in the Gender Unit. Even as the General Election approaches the majority of staff in the Gender Unit are International staff.
- Women urge the prompt realization of a Gender Unit within ETTA (East Timor Transitional Administration) both now and after independence, and both in Dili and in the Districts administration. This is an urgent requirement so that women can be involved in dialogue so as to ensure that they are not disadvantaged by administration policies.

All of the requests listed above are problems which REDE considers very urgent and must be incorporated in the planning of aid for East Timor. All policy making must be done on the basis of gender mainstreaming.

The government must ensure that there is a mechanism which guarantees the rights of women and gender justice in operational funds. This must be done in parallel in the allocation of programs which strengthen civil society and organisations within it which promote women’s issues so as to ensure the effectiveness of advocacy and measures to progressively bring about changes in the lives of women.

REDE: Feto Timor Lorosae Timorese Women's Network  Added Feb 8

  • REDE: Feto Timor Lorosae was established in March 2000 and currently encompasses more than 15 women’s organisations. These organisations are representative in themselves of a broad cross section of society as there are mass based organisations with national membership -  down to the village level, cultural, income generating/small business and rights based organisations and organisations affiliated with political parties.
  • REDE and each of the network’s members have been accompanying the political developments in our country [ETimor]. REDE advocates on a rights based approach to development, justice, social inclusiveness and gender equity and equality. REDE is also participating in and contributing to the reconstruction as well as working directly with Timorese women through amongst others, literacy and income generating and poverty alleviation projects to help them break away from the debilitating ties of illiteracy and poverty.
  • Although there have been achievements, progress is slow. Women’s lives in East Timor, as with the rest of the population continues to be arduous. For women this is more so because of the situation of women in Timorese society, cultural perceptions of women, the absence of clear laws which protect women and women’s limited participation in decision making.

  • Filomena Reis for REDE
    See: Dec 5-6 2000 REDE: Women's Network statement to Brussels donor conference

    See also:

    BD: East Timorese Women's Issues - A collection of recent information, petitions, articles and news

    BD: Sexual & Other Violence as a weapon of war - A collection of recent articles and news

    East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e  Updated June 14
    Umbrella agency for East Timorese Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
    VISION: To contribute to the building of a pluralist, democratic, just and sustainable East Timor through the development of a strong, independent and responsible civil society committed to upholding and making real in the daily life of the community, both village and urban, the full range of human rights so that all East Timorese, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, can enjoy the fruits of liberation and development in an East Timor forever free.
    MISSION: To realise its vision by promoting a culture of learning, cooperation, partnership with the community and respect for human rights and good practice amongst East Timorese NGOs and between them and other development actors, both domestic and international, and by serving as a collective, independent voice for the rights and needs of the community.
    VALUES AND PRINCIPLES: a rights approach to development; inclusiveness, participation; accountability; gender balance; respect for the environment; non-party political; non-sectarian; good governance; volunteerism.
    Kaikoli Street, Dili-East Timor  Telephone +670(390)322772
    E-mail:  Homepage:
    Jun 7 ETNGO Forum: Donors Meeting must be for Rural People:
    Jun 13 ETNGO Forum: The voice of Civil Society calls the Donors:

    BD: East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e - A collection of recent media releases, position-statements, speeches, petitions, reports, and news

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