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Gender training sessions in Timor

I returned from two rural districts earlier this month with Bubu Saha, Concern Timor Leste’s organisational approach manager, after giving gender training sessions to the Concern staff.

I returned from two rural districts earlier this month with Bubu Saha, Concern Timor Leste’s organisational approach manager, after giving gender training sessions to the Concern staff.

The one-day sessions in Los Palos and Same were part of Concern’s ongoing efforts to incorporate gender analysis into all of its work in Timor Leste.

 

Bubu and I discussed why analysing and challenging traditional gender stereotypes are key aspects of development work. Nation-building is also not only a process of creating and strengthening democratic institutions but eradicating all forms of discrimination, including gender inequality. Our take-home message was that nations cannot expect to prosper if one half of their populations are oppressed.

Timor Leste has much work to do in this regard. The country ranks very low on the *United Nations’ Gender Development Index, which is essentially a score card of how UN member states treat women. Out of 177 nations in the index, Iceland ranks number one in gender equality, Sierra Leone comes in last, and Timor Leste is 150 on the list. In discussing this statistic, many of Concern’s local staff members reacted not so much with surprise but with sadness and a desire to do something to bring up the country’s score.

We brainstormed creative ways to increase women’s participation in Concern’s projects in Timor Leste, especially in areas where men usually dominate, such as disaster risk reduction, income generation, and sustainable agriculture. We discussed the pervasiveness of gender-based violence in Timor Leste and the barriers to justice, particularly for rural women who live far from police stations, domestic violence shelters, and courts.

Some lively debate took place over the role that Timor’s “bride price” custom might play in perpetuating gender-based violence. Some staff strongly defended the cultural practice in which a bride’s family gives to the groom’s family livestock, such as water buffalo, goats or pigs, when a couple decides to marry. Others felt that it demeans women by equating their worth to that of farm animals, giving men the impression that they can beat them as they do livestock. We seemed to agree that more analysis and discussion of the practice should take place and Concern should consider strengthening its efforts to promote women’s equality in the work it and its partner organisations undertake in Timor.  

*Table 28, Page 98 of 126