Monday, March 10, 2008

Commemoration of International Women’s Day 2007

Dili-Timor Leste/March 2007

The celebration of the International Women’s Day was conducted by Rede Feto for two days. With a national theme, “Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women”, the celebration commenced on March 7 to 8, 2007 with several activities which were participated in by its member organizations. The overall activity coordinator was GFFTL, an NGO member of Rede Feto. The objectives of this programme were to raise awareness of the civil society on the effects of impunity on people especially women and to promote peace and harmony in Timor-Leste.

The activities conducted were:

Discussion on the Veterans Law

This activity was held on 28 February at the Office of Rede Feto with three members from the Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs and Rede Feto members. The objective of the discussion was to explain the contents of the Veterans Law and the whole process of giving pension and awards to veterans. An important issue raised in the discussion was on “loyalty” which in principle referred to women who were eligible for the pension but were ignored in the Veterans Law. For instance, the pension plan did not consider widows who remarried for the second time despite spending their entire lives devoted to their husbands in the struggle for independence.

The veteran law focuses only to widows who did not remarry and there was no mention at all about the widowers. There was a negative stereotype among those who were involved in drafting the Law. They prefer to see that women who are not married again will consider as loyal to husbands and thus are considered or entitle to be given the award.

Workshop on book drafting

A one-day workshop was held at the Office of Rede Feto to analyze, review and gather views or comments and suggestions from all members in the revision of a draft book entitled “Hau fo Midar, hau Simu Moruk” before its official launch. The participants during the workshop were from Rede Feto Board of Directors, members and the Executive Body including the story tellers, and representatives from OPE, Oxfam Australia and Progressio. There were several suggestions on how to improve the first draft of the book such as; changing the theme of the book, to simplify and improve its gender analysis, revise some of the ideas from the story tellers, choosing the right pictures and poems to be included. Also discussed were the next steps or actions to be taken which include an advocacy on the amendment of this law and on lobbying with relevant institutions.

Promotion of local products: “Weaving for Life”

The promotion of local products was implemented on 7 to 8 of March that involved Rede Feto members and target groups including the women at Don Bosco’s IDP and the Hafoti group as Progressio’s target group. The women’s groups expressed that the event was very useful because it helped increase their income. One of the participants recommended Rede Feto to continue in conducting an open bazaar at least a quarterly basis as it helps its members. She also mentioned that during the crisis, people were not buying their products due to security reasons, but after the bazaar it had helped them a lot. The bazaar enabled more people to recognize the existence of their group. To continue the promotion of local products, Rede Feto opened a corner or space for them to sell their products at the network’s office.

Book launch on “Medal of Recognition”

The book entitled “Hau fo Midar, Hau Simu Moruk, was launched on 8 March by the Advisor to the Prime Minister on gender equality (OPE). There was a total of 925 copies of the book distributed to members of the National Parliament, government line ministries, District Administrators, Gender Focal Points, universities and Rede Feto members and other stakeholders.

In her speech during the launch, Ms. Aurora Ximenes, the Advisor at OPE emphasized that Timorese women continuously face all kinds of discrimination in their daily life. She cited that violence against women occurs not only in conflict situation but also in normal situation. Also, she advised all participants to pay more attention to end violence and any kind of discrimination by educating children with peace and harmony at home as well as at school. She pointed out the importance of taking up the responsibility of ending violence in their community through activities that will enhance the skills of the youth. At the same time, to enhance the knowledge of the youth on human rights through civic education activities in promoting peace in the community. In addition, she finally recommended the need for Government to pass a law that would promote and protect women’s rights and ensure its implementation.

Messages from two presidential candidates

During the celebration of the International Women’s Day, two of the presidential candidates were able to deliver their messages during the ceremony.

1.) Ms. Lucia Lobato, female candidate representing the Social Democrat Party or PSD

Ms. Lobato stated that the ongoing conflict in Timor-Leste has affected women and limited their access to education. More women are illiterate and had dropped out from school because their parents could not afford in continuously sending their children to school. Ms. Lobato stated that “If in the future she is elected to be president of Timor-Leste, she will emphasize in her programme the importance of providing scholarships to people who have intellectual capacity but are unable to go to school due to school fees”. She mentioned that a scholarship benefit is an important programme especially for women because they are still being considered as second class citizens which is basically rooted in the Timorese society.

Being the only female candidate during the presidential race, Ms. Lobato disclosed that just like other Timorese women, she also have the same experience going through all sorts of difficulties but was able to survive by having received a scholarship. Having completed her education, she has improved her quality as a woman with the aim of helping other women her age who were unable to enjoy much due to limited education. Ms. Lobato briefly told her story related to how she completed her education. She informed; “In her early years, she used to pay her school fees because her parents died when her brothers and sisters were still young. Since she was committed to finish her education, she searched for the appropriate scholarship for her. Based from her experience, she learned that having scholarship programmes for Timorese women is very important because it is only through higher education that can change women’s life and be treated well and become independent and be able to get out of poverty.

2) Mr. Avelino Coelho, male candidate representing PST

In his speech, Mr. Coelho mentioned about the importance of involving men in the promotion of women’s rights. If women work by themselves (without the men cooperating) to advance their rights, it will not help a lot and therefore not change the patriarchal system that have prevailed for a long time. He cited that in order to end discrimination against women and children, all sectors should work together at all levels and to end discriminatory patterns which lead towards inequality. Mr. Coelho added that he would be interested to participate himself and ensure that its implementation goes well.

Talk show in TVTL

Rede Feto together with OPE, organized a “talk show” on TVTL called “Hanoin Lisuk” shown on 8 March. The resource persons invited to be part of the panel were Ms. Maria Barreto, one of Rede Feto’s Board of Directors, Ms. Aurora Ximenes, Adviser for the Prime Minister and a high-ranking official of the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL). The theme for the talk show was “Ending impunity for violence against women and ensure justice for victims”.

Publication of Salurik Bulletin

As regularly proposed to be prepared, Rede Feto continued with its Salurik bulletin every quarter. A special edition was published in line with the celebration of the International Women’s Day. The focus was about the discriminating law that was approved by the National Parliament giving impunity for those who were involved in crimes. It also included Rede Feto’s activities for the last quarter and a one-page features describing FKSH, as one of the members of Rede Feto. There were 350 copies of Salurik printed and distributed to government ministries, members of the National Parliament, Rede Feto members and other stakeholders.***

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