Listen to East Timorese women’s voices, urges CIIR
East Timor is in danger of stumbling on
the road to democracy unless the United Nations and the future Constituent
Assembly take full account of the input of women,
warns the Catholic Institute for International
Relations’ international women’s delegation in East Timor. This is
in spite of efforts by many East Timorese women across the spectrum to
propel their issues up the political agenda.
CIIR’s delegation in East Timor looked at women’s participation in the 30 August elections, met political parties, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and voters in Dili and in the districts and concluded:
- Women were represented in party lists but this doesn’t mean that women will automatically be elected. Women are often far down the list, and parties may re-order the list after the election has taken place.
- Most parties have not prioritised the needs of women in their programmes. In several cases the party leaders we spoke to admitted that they did not know what their party policies on women were.
- Instead of focusing on the future needs of their country, many parties have been obsessed by history.
- There is a severe lack of understanding of the objective of the elections among the rural women. A woman we met on polling day in Maubara said she did not know what the election was about, but had come to vote anyway because the village leader told her to.
- Violence against women is endemic, amplified by the post-conflict situation. There is a failure to recognise the seriousness of this problem — as exemplified by a recent case where courts ruled that a man was entitled to beat his wife because of cultural reasons.
- Women have energetically organised to address these issues through organisations such as the National Caucus of Women, REDE, and other East Timorese women’s organisations. There are women standing on party platforms and as independents.
Catherine Scott, spokesperson for the CIIR
delegation said on polling day:
‘It is clear that women in East Timor want to play a full role in shaping the future of their country. We are often accused by men in East Timor of importing Western values that are not appropriate to East Timorese culture. However, the women we have spoken to, both in the capital and in the countryside, are adamant that in order to exercise their responsibilities in building a new East Timor they need to be able to establish their rights as equal citizens. Whether or not they achieve this will depend on the continuing support of the international community: both to East Timor and specifically to its women.’
The CIIR delegation has concluded that civic education has failed to reach all women. CIIR argues that as the writing of a constitution for East Timor and independence advance, so too must civic education relating to this process, in particular for women in the rural areas.
Further information available from the
CIIR delegation in Dili:
Irene Slegt: +61 (0) 409 877 545
Catherine Scott +44 (0)20 7354 0883
Adam Bradbury: +44 (0)20 7354 0883
Institute for International Relations Updated Aug 23
"Tackling the causes of poverty and injustice internationally through advocacy and skillsharing."
CIIR works with people of all faiths and none.
Work in East Timor: Since the beginning of 2000, CIIR has been operational on the ground in East Timor, with a small office in Dili. During the past year CIIR has been working to strengthen women’s organisations through advocacy capacity-building. CIIR have internationalised the campaigns of REDE, the women’s network, which recently mounted an unsuccessful campaign to have the notion of quotas for women accepted by the East Timorese National Council.
Email Catherine Scott: Cathy@ciir.org Homepage: http://www.ciir.org
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