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Status of Women in East Timor
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Status of Women in East Timor
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Australia's aid program in East Timor has a strong gender focus. One example of this is in the justice sector, where AusAID is supporting civil society organizations that address violence against women and improve access to information and services.

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Learn more about the Association of Men Against Violence in East Timor.

Find out more about AusAID's work in East Timor.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Kirsty Gusmao has come a long way from Bendigo, beginning her humanitarian campaign as an overseas aid worker in Jakarta, continuing with the Timorese resistance movement, and now a champion of women's issues.
KIRSTY GUSMAO [women's activist]
I have access to people in positions of authority and people that do have sway in making policy and setting agendas.
VOICEOVER
In 10 years of independence, this country has made plenty of progress towards gender equality, a strong focus of Australian government assistance in East Timor. There's a real commitment by all political parties to ensure women are well represented in parliament, enabling issues to be tackled from the top down.
FERNANDA BORGES [East Timor Parliament member]
So it's bringing in new ideas and promoting a different set of principles for a population that's half women and half men. I think it's going to help us develop a lot better and faster.
VOICEOVER
It simply has to. The streets of the capital Dili provide plenty of reminders of a very fragile country: burned out buildings and a heavy police presence, everyday traffic dominated by United Nations vehicles, a visible indicator of East Timor's heavy dependence on foreign assistance. A sad history of violence, maternal and infant mortality, unemployment, and alarming literacy rates amongst women stemming from generations suppressed under a patriarchal society, as well as the conditions of war, has this emerging nation coming off a very low base for women's rights.
KIRSTY GUSMAO
The issue of violence against women is huge here. I mean, it was the single most reported crime throughout the period of the transition to independence, and our justice system is not responding adequately to the needs of women. But that will change.
VOICEOVER
One of these changes is the number of men joining the cause. This group calls itself the AMKV, Men Against Violence, with over a thousand members.
OLIVIO DA COSTA [Men Against Violence member]
Some of them are voluntarily coming and working with us, and we are hoping to get more and more men involved in this organization.
VOICEOVER
Around Liquica, scene of one of the worst massacres in the conflict a decade ago, residents are being trained to mediate internal disputes, taking the legal system into the villages on issues like property disputes and domestic violence.
VILLAGE COMMUNITY LEADER
We've seen a reduction in domestic violence cases in our community. Women and men now understand that women and men now have equal rights.
VOICEOVER
Kate Olivieri is an Australian volunteer working in the government's gender unit
KATE OLIVIERI [government gender unit worker]
The thing is that there is so much to be done. Everyone has a lot of enthusiasm, but there is so much to be done. There is endemic violence against women, domestic violence against women.
VOICEOVER
To highlight these issues, Australia has partnered with USAID in training a new breed of female journalists
MARIA-GABRIELA CARRASCALAO [Knight Fellow, journalist]
A lot of them might be victims of violence at home so that's a way for them to talk and expose everything.
REPORTER
In the 10 short years since independence, the people of East Timor have been able to achieve more than most in the area of gender equality. In fact their enthusiasm is plain to see, but it appears that in some other key issues affecting women, a little more patience may be necessary.
VOICEOVER
Maternal health remains an enormous issue, a problem with very deep cultural roots.
KIRSTY GUSMAO
Timor has one of the highest rates of infant-maternal mortality in the world, the highest fertility rate in the world with an average eight children per family, something like 200 times the rate of under-five mortality compared with Australia. Alarming statistics.
KATE OLIVIERI
It's kind of insurance for people. I mean, if a woman has six children and then has a difficult birth with the seventh and dies of an infection because she couldn't get a proper midwife assistance, then at least the father still had six children.
VOICEOVER
The biggest step, it seems, is to finally have women's issues firmly on the political agenda, giving rise to optimism
KIRSTY GUSMAO
Absolutely, I feel overwhelmingly optimistic and hopeful at this particular point in time.
VOICEOVER
Most importantly, East Timor's women are now demanding progress. Past records on gender issues are simply too painful for some
FILOMENA BARROS DOS REIS [women's activist]
I would like to see no more tears in the women's face, the tears of injustice and the tears of violence. I don't want to see that any more. It's enough.