Thursday, January 26, 2006

The changing face of politics

This morning I attended a workshop organised by my NGO and UNIFEM. The title of the workshop was: “Partisipasaun feto iha polítiku: Workshop atu evalua feto nia presiza polítiku ba eleisaun 2007” (Women’s political participation: workshop to evaluate women’s political needs for the 2007 election). There are two more such workshops scheduled for between now and March in preparation for the looming Legislative and Presidential elections (date to be decided but either late this year or early 2007 as the current mandate ends May 2007).

The National Parliament currently has 23 women members of the Parliament (MPs) out of a total of 87 members (26%). Women also hold three key Ministerial positions (Planning and Finance, State Administration and Public Works) and four deputy Ministerial positions (Planning and Finance, State Administration, Foreign Affairs and Education). More recently and aided by special reservations seats, over 1,000 women were elected to positions in village councils and as chiefs of villages and hamlets.

The venue for the workshop was the Hotel Timor, the most expensive hotel in Timor and where all visiting dignitaries stay. I had never been inside before and it was such a revelation to do so. I actually felt like I could have been anywhere in the Western world. The interior was decked out in expensive fittings and there was even a coffee bar complete with espresso machine. The venue is also where the elite “malae” come to chat every weekday at 1pm and to which Daniel was invited once (see Lihu, Railaco, Ermera).

A guest speaker was a bloke from the Australian Labor Party! It was a very surreal experience to hear him talk about the ALP’s attempts at getting more women elected to parliament, particularly as the founding member of the Green Women’s Network of Victoria. A “malae” woman translated his talk into Tetum. During question time, one Timorese woman was quite wound up about the Australian political scene and for too long a time, the question and answer period was dominated by irrelevant issues from my home country.

The most inspiring speaker at the workshop was a young Timorese woman (<20)>

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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