STRONG WOMEN, STRONG NATION
by Kirsty Sword Gusmão, Former First Lady of Timor-Leste and Founder of Alola Foundation
The Fundasaun Alola, a women's organization I established in 2001, provides training in small business and financial management, product development and marketing to women producers of our handicrafts, principally the beautiful hand-woven cloth known as 'tais'. The Foundation's business arm, 'Alola Esperansa', is a young and inexperienced enterprise which would benefit hugely from ideas on marketing strategies (inside and outside Timor-Leste), elaboration of a realistic business plan and design of new products incorporating the vast array of materials such as bamboo and raw cotton abounding in nature in our country. It is our dream to build a vibrant and viable business which can continue to offer employment and skills training to hundreds of women. It is our dream also to expand our current shop front to create a gallery space to display the traditional weaving tools and woven cloths from producer groups across all 13 districts of Timor-Leste. Ideally we would launch the new-look 'Alola Esperansa', complete with website and on-line catalogue to coincide with the 10th Anniversary of our declaration of independence in May 2012. Can you help us with the ideas, funding and technical assistance we require to make this dream of a bold and proud new flag-ship of women's economic independence a reality?
The Alola's Foundation's transformation from a weak and donor-dependent NGO in 2001, to one of Timor-Leste's most significant women's organizations, led and managed entirely by a team of competent East Timorese women, is in many ways a microcosm of the change and growth occurring nationally within Timor-Leste. Thanks to its range of grass-roots programs in the areas of Maternal and Child Health, Education, Economic Empowerment and Advocacy, Alola has contributed significantly to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and to ensuring that the voices of the women and children are heard in all spheres of public life.
I firmly believe that when we unleash the power of women's intelligence and nurturing instincts in the service of Peace and Development in Timor-Leste, our little nation stands to reap the most extraordinary benefits. Our women are the backbone of their families and communities, they played a vital role in the struggle to liberate Timor-Leste from foreign domination and are important agents of change, innovation and peace-building in their daily lives.
"Women are the custodians and promoters of traditional East Timorese culture. Our nascent handicrafts industry is predominantly the domain of women, and in particular the poorest rural women. Through the production and sale of traditional craft products, women can manage to feed, cloth and education their children."
*This article has published on www.qi-global.com