Photo: UN Women/Betsy Davis


Timor-Leste (or East Timor) became an independent nation in 2002 after centuries of Portuguese colonial rule, followed by Indonesian occupation and devastating conflict which left most of the population displaced and 70 per cent of the infrastructure decimated.  From disaster to transition, the country has just witnessed the third free and fair Presidential and Parliamentary elections and inaugurated the new government in August 2012.

Currently, the main challenges for women remain deep poverty, frequent cases of domestic violence and lack of recognition of women’s contribution tothe political, economic and social spheres.  Political participation and economic empowerment are particularly crucial as the conflict left nearly half of Timorese women widowed and sole providers for their family.  Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and domestic violence are critical issues for women in post-conflict Timor-Leste.  Domestic violence is the most reported case to the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the National Police, a unit set up with assistance from the UN specifically for vulnerable people including women, children and the elderly. Timorese women have described domestic violence as normal and sometimes, a daily occurrence.

The creation of the new constitution provided an opportunity for women's human rights, and a Gender and  Constitution Working Group was set up with support from UN Women and its partners to ensure that women's rights were included in the new constitution. This resulted in guarantees of equality between women and men, and a declared state objective to promote and guarantee equal opportunities in the political and social sphere for all.  A recent amendment to the electoral law states that 33% of the political parties' lists must be women candidates, resulting in 38% of seats in the National Parliament being women, the highest rate in the Asia Pacific region.  The Ministers of Finance and Social Solidarity, 4 Vice-Ministers, namely Health, Education, Management, Support and Resources, and 4 Secretary of State positions are held by women.   At the local level, there are currently 11 women village Chiefs (Chefes de Suco), 2 women sub-village Chiefs (Chefes de Aldeia), and 6 elders that function as traditional leaders (lian nain).  Each village council is guaranteed 3 women representatives country-wide.

Other legislative measures have come into effect as well, such as the Law against Domestic Violence Law, passed in 2010 naming domestic violence a public crime, and the National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence, a strategy of prevention and provision of services for survivors of gender-based violence and domestic violence.


UN Women established a presence in Timor-Leste with an initial needs assessment in 2000, and opened a project office in 2001. Currently, UN Women works in the following areas: [click to expand]

• Gender-Responsive Planning and Budgeting

The National Women’s Machinery, known as the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, has been key in promoting and implementing national planning and budgeting incorporating a gender perspective.  The campaign stemmed from a two-day workshop on gender responsive budgeting (GRB), supported by UN Women, encompassing members of civil society and women's organizations to share information and brainstorm ideas for the future of the country.  Efforts in coordination of the Millennium Development Goal Achievement Fund Joint Programme, comprised of UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and IOM also added to UN Women's involvement as a leader in working with the government to mainstream budgets, policies and programmes.  The latest success includes the costing of the National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence through technical support provided to the government with UN Women funds.  UN Women is also supporting women’s organizations and NGOs work on transparency in governmental budgets and in business in the private sector.  UN Women is also providing technical assistance in advocacy work for governmental budgeting to implement the Law against Domestic Violence, and to monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan on Gender-based Violence. Read more...

• Women in Politics

UN Women supports women’s participation in politics and decision-making at the national, municipal, and village levels in Timor-Leste.We work to develop women's active participation, leadership and decision-making in the formal political arenas. Capacity building for women and men parliamentarians, as well as village chiefs continues to take place, and forty-six women trainers of eleven political parties were trained on transformative leadership in the last two years.  These trainers went on to train 267 candidates in turn.  Continued training sessions on public speaking, campaign techniques and in monitoring and documenting the electoral processes are taking place.

• CEDAW Implementation in Timor-Leste

As part of the UN Women CEDAW Southeast Asia Programme, UN Women Timor-Leste is working to increase awareness of women's human rights and CEDAW by state and civil society, strengthen capacity of governments and civil society to promote women's human rights under CEDAW, and engage stronger political will and commitment to CEDAW implementation by developing women's knowledge and capacity to claim their rights. UN Women has successfully provided technical support to the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality, the national women's machinery, in compiling and presenting the first State Report for the CEDAW Committee, and socializing the Concluding Observations of the Committee presented in November 2009. UN Women's support to the Ministry of Education has resulted in a Gender Assessment which will be invaluable for plans to increase female retention levels at schools. Read more

• Women, Peace and Security

A baseline study of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)was initiated in two pilot districts on the western border of Indonesia, a region formerly known for human trafficking and other petty crimes. This study identified the causes and types of SGBV and domestic violence, categorized available services to survivors and gaps for intervention. Informed by the study, the current phase of the programme facilitates training key stakeholders including the PNTL and F-FDTL on Security Council resolution 1325, supports community-led initiatives through the development of self-help groups to increase community building and reduce rates of sexual and gender-based violence and domestic violence.  Provision of much needed micro-grants to small, often women-headed self-help groups is enabling communities to manage issues of income generation and food security as well as provision of services to survivors of domestic violence. Read more


News and Updates

Bringing Gender Equality One Step Closer Through the Municipality Law in Timor-Leste

12 May 2017

This is a critical time for us to really focus on integrating gender aspects in the laws at the municipal level” said Laura Pina, founder of Fundação Pátria, on the second day of the debate on Local Power and Municipal Electoral Laws in Liquica, the municipality neighboring Timor-Leste’s capital of Dili. “Members of Parliament will analyze each article of those two laws and will make a proposal for the first time... more

Timor-Leste Prepares for the 2015 Population Census

10 June 2015

On the 8th of June 2015, the General Directorate of Statistics (GDS), in association with the Government of Timor-Leste and the Ministry of Finance, with support from UNFPA and UN Women, launched the National Census of Population and Housing Timor-Leste Campaign... more

Our Money, Our Account

9 June 2015

Two or three days ago, I was visiting our border (with Indonesia), and I saw three big structures standing there. One is a greenhouse that would serve as a treatment place for plants that would be imported... more

Over 100 women stand together to sing the national anthem, opening the 100% Hau Prontu workshop. Photo: Christina Yiannakis

Timor-Leste: 100% Ready for Women in Leadership

4 June 2015

“Currently, only 2% of suco leaders are women,” explains Laura Pina, the director of the women’s organization Patria and a key organizer of the workshop. The 2% statistic stands in stark contrast to women’s representation in... more

Preparing Journalists to Promote Change: Training on Gender Sensitive Reporting in Timor-Leste

1 June 2015

Despite a long history of political unrest, as well as geographic challenges as a result of its lush, mountainous landscape, access to ICT in Timor-Leste is rapidly increasing. Statistics collected in 2010 indicate that despite the fact that less than one in ten people (7%)... more


Women, Peace and Security (WPS) - YES! Learning Pack

27 May 2015

In the 15 years since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 (UN SCR 1325) in 2000, the distinct experiences of women in times of armed conflict, as well as the important contributions of women in peacebuilding have gained increasing attention as part of the global peace and security agenda. At the same time, advocates and experts have... more