Wednesday, March 08, 2006

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and the theme is “Increasing Women’s Decision-Making Capacity”. I attended a ceremony held for the occasion at the Memorial Hall near my place of work. Due to the large attendance, I couldn’t get into the room where the speeches were made, so I wandered around the hall and spent time looking at various women’s projects such as weaving and admired the photos of women police and military officers (20% of the police and military are women) along with a photo and a brief bio of a woman whose restaurant we frequent.

Women’s Day Comments and Issue of Women’s Quota

"Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has stated that International Women’s Day, celebrated today, is important for all of us to join in solidarity with women. He said that there should be no competition between women and men, but that men should also join in solidarity with women in supporting their rights. He extended his congratulations to women on this day, both Timorese women and women the world over. He also guaranteed that the struggle for women’s rights in Timor-Leste will continue to progress. Also relaying his message on the occasion, President Xanana Gusmão said that the Government has become stronger in discussing women’s issues in Timor-Leste.

To commemorate the day, the women’s organization Rede Feto will be carrying out some special activities, including an exhibition which will be held at the Memorial Hall Farol, with the objective of promoting women’s participation in their respective sectors including design, photography, infrastructure, construction and hospitality.

PSD and KOTA have supported the establishment of quotas for women in gaining parliamentary seats, while PDC and Fretilin have rejected the idea. Speaking yesterday at the National Parliament, PDC MP Antonio Ximenes said that assigning quotas for women would be a form of discrimination. He stated that he believes that individual capacity must be taken into account, and that women should not be given an advantage just because they are women. MP Manuel Tilman affirmed that KOTA will set a minimum number so that women can gain representation in Parliament. However, he doubted that this would be possible in the end, because Fretilin will not be accepting any quotas. He said that it would therefore be necessary for women’s organizations to lobby Fretilin MP’s so that the law will be passed. PSD MP Fernando Diaz Gusmão also confirmed PSD’s position that it is necessary to set quotas to ensure women’s participation in politics, because even though women have the capacity, their numbers in politics are still few compared to men. He said that if in the future, women’s capacity increases, then it will then no longer be necessary to have quotas."

Source: Suara Timor Lorosae, Timor Post & Diario Nacional (from UNOTIL Public Information Office, Daily Media Review)

My new found friend, Antonio Ximenes MP for the Christian Democrats in the National Parliament (see Women’s Participation in 2007 Elections), unfortunately doesn’t understand that his country systematically discriminates against women while privileging men and therefore, quotas for women are necessary to address this imbalance in Timorese society. But really, what can you expect from a Timorese man who trained to be a priest in the Catholic Church?

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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