Fairtrade Australia New Zealand (ANZ) has announced the launch of a new Women’s School of Leadership (WSOL) in Timor Leste, the first of its kind in the region.
The initial cohort of 26 men and women, selected from among Fairtrade farmers at the Cooperative Café Timor (C-CAT), participated in the program’s first classes in mid-February.
One of the students is Madalena da Costa Soares, a 21-year-old famer from the Ainaro district of southwest Timor Leste, who hopes the school will help her fulfill her aspirations.
“I want to be an independent woman…I want to create my own business, such as having a stall, because I don’t want to depend on my parents,” she says.
“I want to focus on what I receive in this course so I can also share it with young people or girls so that it can improve the lives of the community.”
The WSOL concept, originally developed by Fairtrade International, was first run in West Africa in 2017.
The year-long program teaches confidence, money management, sustainable farming practices and gender rights to leaders (of all genders) in the local communities.
The CEO of Fairtrade ANZ, Molly Harriss Olson, says she is excited to see the idea brought to the Pacific region.
“We know, from Fairtrade’s experience internationally, that this program changes lives. When women are empowered, the whole society benefits partly because women choose to spend their money supporting the household. This means less poverty, more food and more children in education,” Molly says.
Timor Leste ranks 128th out of 187 countries on the United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index, and 59 per cent of Timorese women aged 15 to 19 who have ever had a partner experience intimate partner violence.
The WSOL in Timor Leste is funded by the World Trade Organization’s Enhanced Integration Framework program and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as part of a larger ongoing program to promote gender equality, climate resilience and trade in the region.
For more information, visit Fairtradeanz.org.