Educating Timor Leste’s Women

When it comes to educational opportunities in Timor Leste, a number of challenges arise in providing women with the support needed to see them succeed. This is due to a combination of factors.

Since its independence in 2002, Timor Leste has made great strides in advancing its national infrastructure and social welfare efforts. However, two thirds of young Timorese struggle to eke out a livelihood with limited opportunities available for men and women alike, with most of the population attempting to survive on subsistence farming efforts.

The nation of Timor Leste is also in the initial stages of creating health and welfare programs targeted at addressing gender based violence and equality issues, however these are still undergoing assessment and will likely be launched well into the future. This issue of timing coupled with strong cultural factors, results in less prospects for women. Needless to say this also adds to issues in providing accessibility to quality education for girls in the region.

Maria’s Story:

Maria was born as the youngest of 8 children, four boys and four girls. As the child of subsistence farmers, Maria was unable to access an education due to the poverty experienced by such a large family.

“To earn some money, my father used to work in other people’s rice field. They would pay him during harvest time, or when they needed to prepare the ground for planting. He was like a farm hand.”

Maria’s mum was instrumental in ensuring that Maria was encouraged to pursue an education in a bid to break the cycle of poverty experienced by their family. “When I was a child, my mum was the one who supported me to look for a good education. Even though she can’t read and write, and even though I’m a girl, she prioritised education for me. She worked hard for me and always encouraged me to try.”

With a passion for the sciences and mathematics,  Maria’s dream to attend university was nearly brought to a close due to lack of funding as the local university fees were far too costly.

“I was able to apply for a community scholarship and after meeting Fr Bruce regarding my aspirations, I successfully enrolled into a Bachelor of Laboratory Studies in the Health Department of Dili. Through this course I was able to learn about laboratory tools, basic laboratory management, public health, anatomy, chemistry, history and computer science.”

“Being able to study health and science will empower me to help my family and other families, and care for those with health needs in my country. I want to give people answers by doing good analysis by working in a hospital or lab setting.”

Marcelina’s Story:

Much like Maria, Marcelina’s early life was marred with the challenges associated with living in poverty. She also tragically lost her father and mother at a young age, leaving her in the care of her brother and sister, both of whom resorted to subsistence farming in order to support themselves and their siblings.

While Marcelina was able to access a basic education, the Carmel Impact team was able to see her need (and potential), assisting her in applying for a community scholarship.

“If it wasn’t for the scholarship, I am not sure I would have been able to go to school. The Scholarship helps to pay for my boarding, schoolbooks and pencils, food and more. It is helping me to realise my dreams. I thank the Carmelite family in Australia for believing in me!”

Marcelina was able to study construction, business administration as well as architecture and design. She has also become proficient in English, Tetum and Portuguese, providing her with greater career prospects thank to the generous donations of donors like yourself!

Thanks to the support of donors like you, Carmel Impact has been able to help a students like Marcelina and Maria overcome generational poverty and be able to make a future for themselves and the people of Timor Leste who will be impacted by their future work.

If you’re keen to read about the stories of other scholarships students, you can find them on our news page. Alternatively you can support more of our work through our donation page here.