From where I stand: Graciana Da Silva

Date: Monday, January 30, 2017

Photo: Rede Feto Timor Leste

I was the only woman candidate for the role of village chief in my village Laidohar [in Liquica Municipality near Dili, Timor-Leste]. I was competing against six men. In the next village over, in Suku Asumanu, my friend was competing against 10 men and in neighboring Suku Laurema, it was the same.

People hold tightly to traditional culture. They don’t want to see women as leaders outside the home. Meanwhile, many men want to be in a position where they can influence people. They often control the resources, the management and administration of our villages.

Where I live, only men ride motorbikes. Most men don’t let their wives learn to ride. Men can campaign from aldeia to aldeia [small hamlets that make up a village]. Women might have to wait for a man to take them – who wants to do that?

From what I have seen, the political parties often support men in the role. They don’t look at the women as holding any power. Even though women played an active role in Timor-Leste’s fight for independence.

But women are leaders already. We know already about leadership and management. We are leaders in the home.

The training from 100% Hau Prontu helped me in public speaking, how to do advocacy, how to manage the administration of a village. The campaign also helped to change the law.

This is a big change but it happened too close to the election. If more people know about the change in the law, it will be better next time.”

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities SDG 5: Gender equality

Graciana Da Silva was one of 319 women who ran in recent nationwide elections for village chief in Timor-Leste, under a new electoral law that requires each village to have at least one female candidate. Graciana is a single mother and founder of the non-government Moris Foun (New Life) Foundation, which helps women and children. She was encouraged to stand in the election by 100% Hau Prontu (100% I’m Ready), a campaign supported by UN Women. Graciana did not win, but her efforts contributed to Sustainable Development Goal 16, for more participatory and representative decision-making in Timor-Leste.

Read more stories in the “From where I stand...” editorial series.