Breaking barriers and building bridges for women to reach new heights in the police

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Author: Helio Miguel*

Dili, Timor-Leste — Meet Timor-Leste’s first female municipal police commander, Superintendent Natercia E. S. Martins, who earned the rank within 10 years of service with the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL).

Superintendent Natercia E. S. Martins. The only Timor-Leste’s Police Municipal commander in the country. Photo: UN Women/Helio Miguel
Superintendent Natercia E. S. Martins. The only Timor-Leste’s Police Municipal commander in the country. Photo: UN Women/Helio Miguel

Growing up in the mountain village of Ermera, Superintendent Martins learned to be a strong woman from her father, a former member of Timor-Leste’s Defense Forces. He was the only family member who supported her dream to join the police. Her motivation to join the PNTL and stand up for justice, found roots during her activism for the independence of Timor-Leste in 1999, which exposed her to the injustices and violations against youth perpetrated by Indonesian security forces. Therefore, she decided to continue to find a way to inspire more youth and more women to walk with her and realize the dreams of the resistance fighters. She invests her time and own resources, and collaborates with the church and Veterans to deliver her message regarding security issues to unreachable areas.


“We are mothers who serve the family and police officers who serve the country [..] so, having a baby shouldn’t stop our career to sustain our kids...”


Her motivation and zeal has propelled her career development forward. Recalling the many opportunities she was given to develop her capacity, inside and outside the country, she noted, “My full dedication to work and serving the institution has led me to receive training opportunities and promotions.” Just within the 10 years of her career, she was honored as a municipal police commander in the Liquica. Like many working women, she has balanced her role as a police officer alongside her role as a mother. And despite these dual roles, in 2011, she managed to complete her law degree after four years of enrollment.

Superintendent Martins described her time with the PNTL as a bittersweet experience. “As a woman commander, I have many supportive friends. However, as the only female municipal commander for several years, it doesn’t guarantee your voice is strong enough to be heard.”

She shared that leading at a young age as a woman has brought countless doubts, even within the institution. “My colleagues questioned my ability to lead. It was tough and I was in a dilemma. Should I just let it pass and then close the door to other women trying to step up?” Natercia also calls for the institution to trust more women.

“We are mothers who serve the family and police officers who serve the country. Women have to be economically independent. So, having a baby shouldn’t stop our career to sustain our kids and should not force us to rely only on our husband.”

Natercia has continued to take part in leadership and participation training in the police force. She has also recently been selected with five other women to become a UN peace keeper in the future. This is part of Timor-Leste’s government’s commitment to the NAP 1325.

* This work has been supported through the Women, Peace and Security program at UN Women with the support of Government of Japan.