No longer underestimated: Reaching economic independence in Timor-Leste

May 31, 2016

Participants of the Rural Women’s Development Project in Timor-Leste. Photo: Anna Carlile
Participants of the Rural Women’s Development Project in Timor-Leste. Photo: Anna Carlile

Timor-Leste’s patriarchal culture means women are responsible for almost all of the housework and childcare. Eight out of ten women are unpaid for their work and a majority of women in rural Timor-Leste communities are confined to their own homes.

Six years ago, IWDA established a partnership with Organisasaun Haburas Moris (OHM) in Timor-Leste, with the aim to empower women economically, to reach their own financial independence. As a result, the Rural Women’s Development Project has seen women develop successful micro businesses and savings groups, and become fearless leaders and decision-makers in their community.

Rodina Sose Mali Gama has participated in the program since it began in 2010.

“OHM gave us training… they built our capacity. Before we had the group… we did not know what we could do as women.”

Georgia Ride, Program Manager in Timor-Leste says one of the great successes of the partnership with OHM is how husbands are now supporting their wives taking a more active role in their wider community.

“Opening up economic empowerment opportunities for women improves gender relations in the household, as husbands begin to value women’s financial contribution and decision-making.”

Strengthening women’s economic position through the program has also given women the power to fight for their legal right to be free from domestic violence.

“When children see new ways of women and men engaging with each other, this leads to intergenerational change, transforming the perception of women as leaders and decision-makers in the long-term.”

“When we were first involved in the group… we didn’t speak with confidence. Being in this group, we get lots of experience and we must be confident. If not, then our group won’t progress. – Member of Moris Foun in Purugua Village

Visit IWDA’s YouTube channel to hear from women who participated in the Rural Women’s Development Project in Timor-Leste

This program was implemented with the support of the Australian Government.