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December 2021

Preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Timor-Leste

Executive Summary

The constitution and statutory laws of Timor-Leste guarantee equal rights and duties for women and men. However, women continue to experience bias and discrimination in practice, driven by historically patriarchal social norms and customary laws. The highly patriarchal system in Timor-Leste predefines gender roles and power dynamics within households and communities and in the market economy. Men are generally viewed as the heads of households, main providers, and decision-makers, while women are in charge of child-rearing and household chores, which limits their capacity to engage in their own economic activities. Although the government of Timor-Leste considers female entrepreneurs, including women who own micro and small enterprises, as engines of growth, women face greater constraints in developing and scaling their businesses than men, including intertwined gendered business and social challenges. Additionally, women entrepreneurs are still expected to perform their usual tasks at home, and they struggle with profitability as they usually work in low-paying sectors such as handicraft production, kiosk operation, agriculture, and tourism. Timorese women also face a high level of gender-based violence (GBV), rooted in unequal gender norms, poverty, and the country’s history of violence connected to its emergence from Indonesian rule. Physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence are often frequent and severe. Building on strategies and best practices of its local partners, and the existing policies and programs of the government and other stakeholders, the Business and Social Support for Female Entrepreneurs in Timor-Leste (BEST) program seeks to create linkages to address the barriers faced by female microentrepreneurs in starting, maintaining, and expanding businesses.

This preliminary “Gender and Inclusion Analysis” was prepared through the joint efforts of the Grameen Foundation, ABA ROLI, and Dechert LLP, which provided pro bono assistance in preparing the “Legal and Contextual Analysis.” The analysis is based on desk research and analysis of pertinent laws, policies, secondary sources, and field research involving key informant interviews with local program partners and stakeholders (Ba Futuru, Empreza Di’ak, Associacão Epresarial Das Mulheres Timor-Leste (AEMTL), Moris Rasik Foundation, and Kaebuk Investimentu no Finansa); focus group discussion with a women entrepreneurs group in Maubara – Liquiçá; consultations with the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion (SEI), the U.S. Embassy, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Peace Corps; and input from Alola Foundation staff members in Timor-Leste. The analysis will be enriched and polished following needs and landscape assessments at the inception stage of the program.

Read the Report

The statements and analysis contained in the report “Preliminary Gender and Inclusion Analysis for Timor-Leste” are the work of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). The Board of Governors of the American Bar Association (ABA) has neither reviewed nor sanctioned its content. Accordingly, the views expressed in the report should not be construed as representing the policy of the ABA. Furthermore, nothing contained in this report is to be considered rendering legal advice for specific cases, and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel.

This publication was funded by the United States Department of State through a grant provided to the WAGE consortium. All opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the United States Government, WAGE, or any members of the WAGE consortium.

About WAGE

Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) is a global consortium to advance the status of women and girls, led by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) in close partnership with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Grameen Foundation, and Search for Common Ground (Search). WAGE works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations(CSOs) and private sector organizations (PSOs) in target countries to improve the prevention of and response to gender-based violence; advance the women, peace and security agenda; and support women’s economic empowerment. In this context, WAGE provides direct assistance to women and girls, including information, resources, and services they need to succeed as active and equal participants in the global economy and public life. WAGE also engages in collaborative research and learning to build a body of evidence on relevant promising practices in these thematic areas. To account for the deeply interconnected nature of women’s and girls’ experiences, WAGE’s initiatives employ approaches that are highly collaborative, integrated, and inclusive. WAGE is funded by the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.