Feb 26, 2024 Last Updated 12:52 AM, Feb 22, 2024

Timor's women

Published: Jul 29, 2007


Dawn Delaney


Photo 1.

Caption: Women gather by the well in their Caritas supported communal garden, Oamna, Oecussi

The most pressing concerns for East Timorese women since the 1999 referendum are gender related violence and entrenched poverty. Gender-related crimes make up 40% of all reported incidents around the country and domestic abuse crimes make up half of all cases being heard in Dili District Court.

We have got the CivPol Vulnerable Persons Unit and organisations like Fokupers and ETWave providing support to victims of domestic violence. But as a long-term strategy we need other forms of support for women victims of domestic violence in terms of economic independence. We have already taken a big step forward in publicly discussing this issue. We need to strengthen the constitution even if it's only a reference to the position of the family and the responsibility to the wife. We tend to look at domestic violence in isolation. We write laws and make efforts to protect women, but it's part of a much wider social problem. (Dr Milena Pires, member of the Constituent Assembly and women's rights advocate)

Photo 2.

Caption: Manuela Perreira, Executive Director, Fokupers

Fokupers started because women suffered from the policy of forced sterilisation during Indonesian times. We helped victims from the conflict, women prisoners and wives of prisoners. It has changed to include victims of domestic violence. Now, the main idea is to empower women. Before, the people just concentrated on getting independence. People think domestic violence is an individual problem. It's not, its a public problem but awareness among women about their rights is very low, their right to not have violence in the house, so we give awareness through radio. We have one safe house in Dili for victims who need intensive counselling. We have children who have had abuse. There are so many problems for women in East Timor.(Manuela Perreira, Executive Director, Fokupers)

Photo 3. 

Caption: From left: Eva Quintao (22), Sofia Olivera Fernandes (19), Umbelina Soares, graduates from the Timor Leste Police Academy in Dili

'Sofia Olivera Fernandes: I'm originally from Maliana. I feel proud of myself. I would like to work on domestic violence in the CivPol Vulnerable Persons Unit. I am the first daughter to be a police officer. During Indonesian time the main problem is sexual violence against women but now we are correcting anyone suspected of this crime. We learn about negotiation and mediation. We do this with the family and advise them to take action with the help of the community. Our culture is very old and it teaches us in a nice way how to respect each other, how to behave and have a good attitude.'

Photo 4.

Caption: Martha Caub, Oecussi widow.

'My husband died for Timor. I have seven children to look after now. Food is our biggest problem. The widows have problems about money, clothes and food. We receive wood for a house but not built yet. I'm living in the kitchen hut until my house is built. I was pregnant when my husband was killed. The militia who killed my husband I say to him "please wake up my husband and rebuild my house." I want the militia to come back to rebuild my house and my life.' (Martha Caub, Oecussi widow)

Dawn Delaney (dydel@netconnect.com.au) is a freelance photojournalist based in country Victoria, Australia. This material is part of her photo documentary project 'Lives remembered: Stories of East Timorese women' (Dawn Delaney, 2002)

Inside Indonesia 71: Jul - Sep 2002

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