The Women's Movement in Timor-Leste and Potential for Social Change

Sara Niner, Hannah Loney

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The postconflict period in Timor-Leste is significant for the status of women and the struggle for gender equality. Women today face cultural and political pressure to conform to patriarchal demands, driven by a complex history of conflict, colonialism and changing customary practices. The contemporary East Timorese women's movement, largely a coalition of local NGOs, key women leaders and parliamentarians, has successfully driven the introduction of progressive egalitarian laws and policy, but it continues to grapple with the deeper changes in social practices required for systemic change. We argue that a better understanding of the history of the women's movement, forged within an anticolonial, nationalist independence movement, alongside a conceptualization of the intersecting structures that have shaped the capacity for East Timorese women to effect social change in their communities and nation, is necessary to fully realize the movement's goals and potential. Situating the movement within this framework provides new perspectives on these successes and on strategizing for the transformation of gender relations to make gender equality a lasting reality in everyday practice in contemporary Timor-Leste.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalPolitics and Gender
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Jun 2019


  • gender
  • Timor-Leste
  • Women and politics
  • women's movements

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