WWCTL Receives Prime Minister’s Award for Outstanding Advocacy

Aug 31, 2021

In September 2011, the APHEDA Dili Office launched the Working Women’s Centre of Timor Leste (WWCTL) at an “Our Work, Our Lives” conference that brought together activists, academics and unionists from across Australia. Timor Leste’s APHEDA Country manager, Mana Elisabeth Lino de Araujo, convinced the Australian conference organisers (including unions and the Working Women’s Centres from SA, NT & QLD) to host this conference in Dili for the first time. Our Work, Our Lives offered a fantastic platform to launch WWCTL and their ambitious goal of organising women workers in Timor Leste’s informal sector.

Ten years on, WWCTL has achieved much for working women in Timor Leste, particularly the increasing numbers of Domestic Workers who until WWCTL sought them out and provided work skills training and education on collective action and labour rights, were living and working outside of any social protections as informal workers. In the worst examples as a hangover from colonial days of both the Portuguese and Indonesian occupations, some domestic workers were treated like slaves, bound to their employer without any employment rights including wages.

Today in Timor Leste, the voices of working women are actively represented in local and international forums such as UN Women and the ILO. WWCTL Director, Mana Ricar Pascoela has been invited onto the board of peak women’s NGOs in Timor Leste and WWCTL is regularly asked to speak on radio, television and at events focusing on gender equality. Today, hundreds of organised Timorese Domestic Workers have an elected structure and are actively recruiting new members and participating in regular facilitated meetings and workers’ rights campaign activities. WWCTL continues to deliver training on key issues impacting women workers including a recent workshop on health, hygiene and family planning.

10 Years of Advocacy for Women Workers Acknowledged

On Saturday 21st August 2021, WWCTL was invited to a special event coordinated by Timor Leste’s peak Civil Society Organisation, FONGTIL to recognise the winners of a competition for local Timorese NGOs in a series of categories and achievements. APHEDA is extremely proud that WWCTL received the Prime Ministers’ Award in the category of STRONG ADVOCACY on behalf of its members. This is a huge achievement for the only organisation in the country whose focus is on labour rights for women workers. This recognition by the Timorese Government highlight’s WWCTL’s capacity to effectively advocate for changing community perceptions and legislative protections for its members.

WWCTL Coordinator Ricar Pascoela received the award in person from Prime Minister Taur Matan Rauk on August 21st in a remote village in the district of Baucau. This location was selected by FONGTIL to stage the award ceremony in recognition of the many local Timorese NGO’s who are based in the rural districts outside of the main city of Dili and who support their local communities who make up 80% of Timor Leste’s population.

The Prime Minister’s award recognised WWCTL’s significant achievements including their ability to influence political decision making and inspire reform, notably the draft specific regulatory outlines for domestic workers. WWCTL was also recognised for its excellent governance practices and ongoing contribution to community welfare.

The award ceremony was part of a two-day national retreat between civil society and members of the VIII Constitutional government. The objective of this dialogue was to allow the Prime Minister to directly hear first-hand data, information and recommendations from the community including the critical needs and role of local civil society organizations that are actively involved in the process of national development. The event was also attended by multiple national and local parliamentary and community leaders and representatives from across Civil Society.

What next for WWCTL

If the government holds true to its promise to progress the special draft legislation this year, this will consolidate WWCTL’s tireless efforts to have Timorese Domestic Workers acknowledged as a significant part of Timor Leste’s local economy. The law will enshrine effective labour rights including minimum wages, maximum hours of work, paid leave and other important conditions and position Timor Leste as the first country in the world to ratify C189 (ILO Domestic Workers Convention 2011) through legislative reform.

Sadly due to increasing COVID19 cases in Dili this month and another strict lockdown to try to minimise the spread of the dreaded Delta variant, a much anticipated 2021 event to celebrate 10 years of the WWCTL will unfortunately have to be postponed. This setback has not dampened the spirits of the growing membership of the WWCTL however who are actively planning the next phase of their project implementation, the establishment of a Trade Union for Domestic Workers in Timor Leste.

We acknowledge that the establishment of WWCTL and their pilot project in 2011 was supported by an Innovation Grant from the Australian Government through AusAid.

The Working Women’s Centre of Timor Leste’s Advocacy, Education, Organizing & Support Program for East Timor Domestic Workers is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Australian trade unions, and members of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

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