Dr. Kirsty Sword Gusmão, AO

Dr. Kirsty Sword Gusmão, AO

Dear Friends and Supporters of Fundasaun Alola,

Political and economic uncertainty throughout the course of the past year has caused the national economy to contract, with resulting pressures on the livelihoods of women, particularly those in rural areas. This has made Alola’s work in empowering women to manage their household budgets and to access seed funding and markets all the more vital.


The year 2022 was a big year at many levels, particularly at the national one. On the evening of 19 May, Timor-Leste celebrated the 20th anniversary of its emergence as a new and independent nation. However, 2022 was also a huge year for me personally as it saw me returning to Timor-Leste for the first time since the Covid pandemic.


I was delighted to lead my fourth Study Tour to the country alongside ten Australian participants who experienced with me the joy of ushering in the small nation’s third decade as a sovereign country, of getting to know Fundasaun Alola’s work and of travelling to Balibó and Atauro. As a result of the Study Tour, we successfully raised over $AUD 20,000 for FOKUPERS, Timor-Leste’s longest serving women’s NGO and a key partner of Fundasaun Alola, particularly in the area of elimination of gender-based violence and the provision of vital services to survivors of family violence.


A highlight also of my May 2022 visit was having the opportunity to spend some time together with Juliana dos Santos, aka “Alola”, who took the brave step of returning to her homeland from West Timor in January 2022. It was Juliana’s story which led me to establish the Alola Foundation 21 years ago and today the tale of her courageous flight from suffering and oppression is a source of inspiration to countless woman and girls across the country. You can read more about her journey to freedom in her beloved homeland here.


As Juliana dos Santos and Timor-Leste embark on a new chapter, Fundasaun Alola will continue to stand beside all of the courageous and resilient women of the country and support them to live a life of independence and dignity. The ongoing encouragement, financial backing and championing of friends inside and outside the country are vital to our organisation in the achievement of our mission of promoting women’s rights and equal access to quality health and education services, economic independence and political leadership. Thank you for walking with us!


I extend my sincere thanks, as always, to our many international and local partners, the committed members of the Alola board and especially to the strong women and men who are Alola’s Managers and staff – you are the brains, heart and muscle of Alola.


In friendship and gratitude,


Dr. Kirsty Sword Gusmão, AO