23 June 2007
FRETILIN advances women’s participation in politics
The FRETILIN government has overcome enormous barriers to help women
in Timor-Leste (East Timor) achieve greater participation in political
“Representation of women in the Timor-Leste parliament is among the
highest in the world, despite very low education levels,” said Ana
Pessoa Minister for State Administration and a FRETILIN parliamentary
“It was FRETILIN who argued strongly for the inclusion of a specific
clause in the Constitution to guarantee equality,” she said.
Ms Pessoa said, “FRETILIN has worked to build a legislative framework
to fulfil the constitutional commitment to equality since taking
government in 2002.”
Ms Pessoa is a former provincial judge in Mozambique and an
experienced civil law jurist. She has wide experience in legal issues
concerning women’s and children’s rights and had extensive input into
the drafting of Timor-Leste’s Constitution.
“It was FRETILIN that ensured women were well represented in the
Constitutional Assembly and the first parliament by having 27% female
representation it is first parliamentary list. This has resulted in
the representation of women in the East Timorese parliament being
amongst the highest in the world, including the first world. In the
forthcoming election 22 of our candidates are women when the minimum
requirement is 16.
“The electoral laws developed by my Ministry require all parties to
ensure one in four candidates for parliamentary elections are women.
If given another term in office FRETILIN will work towards improving
on this ratio. My Ministry was also responsible for the local suco
(administrative level) council legislation which included a
requirement that two women representatives and a representative of
young women be present in each suco council.”
Ms Pessoa said FRETILIN has also promoted women to senior positions in
“Currently women hold senior positions in the Council of Ministers,
including the Minister and Vice Minister of Planning and Finance, the
Minister and one of the Vice Ministers of Education and Culture, the
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Minister of
Public Works and myself, as Minister for State Administration.
“We also appointed women to senior positions in the civil service. The
Permanent Secretary of Agriculture for example, is a woman. We
established an Office for the Promotion of Equality inside the Prime
Minister’s Office and each Ministry has a focal point for gender
issues. These are some of the practical expressions of the FRETILIN
government’s commitment to developing a modern society in which women
are treated as equals and with respect.
“I believe FRETILIN has been able to sustain women’s rights as a
priority issue in our party because almost 50% of our members on the
National Political Commission and almost 30% of members on the Central
Committee are women. The National Political Commission and the
Central Committee are the highest decision -making organs within
“These legal and administrative measures are just part of the process
to improve the overall status of women. In a country with very low
education levels, and where 52% of women are illiterate, there are
huge barriers to women’s equal participation in the economic, social
and political life of the nation.” said Ms Pessoa.
For more information, please contact:
Ana Pessoa (+670) 728 7080 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org