News and Stories - Girls Rights - 30 March 2018

The women taking charge in Timor-Leste

The women taking charge in Timor-Leste

Juliana’s leadership is inspiring women and girls to make their own decisions, speak up and take control of their futures.

“I have seen that in our society there is often no space for girls and women to realise their rights. Men are in the highest positions as leaders. These discriminations come from our ancestors and are still very strong.”

Juliana, 32, has been the chief of her village for just over a year now. “Some women have told me that they feel proud. With a woman as village chief, they feel that they can freely express their opinion for the first time.”

Some of the men in her village have struggled with this new bid for leadership from the women in the community.

“In my village, the men do respect my decisions. Not all of them are really used to listening to a woman. But as I am village chief they have to listen to what I say and they accept it.”

“Many people really supported me in becoming village chief and the person supporting me most was my husband. So when I took up the role he started to help much more in the household. When people come to visit he makes coffee or some snack. And he also takes care of the baby.”

Juliana’s position as leader has helped other women come forward with their contributions and suggestions for community issues.

“A few years ago participation at community meetings was much lower. It was also a bit boring if it was always only men contributing. But now the women are also at the meetings and they also contribute much more than in the past.”

Inspiring women and girls to lead

“We, girls and women, have the power to lead. Women and men should be the same – in every aspect of life. Girls nowadays must have the possibility to participate in the development of the nation through education, politics, economy and social aspects.”

“I have realised in the meantime that men also want to hear what women think and what their opinions are.

“The community has become more aware that both men and women can participate in our development – economically, socially and culturally. I think there really should be a balance. Women and men are equal.”

Cimran, 22, feels encouraged by the presence of a female chief. “Since Juliana has been elected I think me and many other girls feel much more confident to talk about our problems or worries. Juliana stands up for women.”

“Women feel more confident to contribute at village meetings, for example. And some say ‘Yes, next time, let’s also be a candidate for village chief’.”

Cimran herself is currently involved in the Women and Girls’ participation program and is helping distribute information to other subdistricts about early marriage and preventing teen pregnancy.

Wherever life takes her, the role model she has in Juliana will give her the confidence to take the lead.

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