Dr. Kirsty Sword Gusmao,
Founder of Alola Foundation

I continue to delight in seeing the intelligence and sensitivity with which CEO Alzira Reis and her staff respond to ongoing and newly emerging issues facing Timor-Leste’s women and children.

In spite of the political stalemate which slowed the economy of Timor-Leste in 2018, a review of Alola’s 2018 Action Plan conducted in October demonstrated that all programs with the exception of the Economic Empowerment program were on track to reach their targets by the end of the year. I am immensely proud of the successful ongoing implementation of the Program Integration strategy in new villages, resulting in a maximising of our organisation’s resources towards improved child nutrition, maternal and child health and public awareness of important issues including early childhood education and gender equality.

I am also very proud of Alola’s leadership in advocating to reject a proposed amendment to the Decree Law on Basic Education which would have made Portuguese the principal language of instruction in schools. The Decree Law, approved by Government in 2015, mandated the use of Tetum as the initial language of literacy and learning in Timor-Leste’s primary schools and aligned the curriculum with Timorese culture and social reality. Alola and our partners in civil society were successful in the campaign which was a great result from the perspective of Education for All.

Alola’s Australia-based sister organisation, Alola Australia, marked 10 years of wonderful support for the women and children of Timor-Leste this year. I take the opportunity of our 2018 Annual Report to pay tribute to the dedication and passion of Chair, Maria Bohan, and all of the wonderfully talented board members. Over that period 1.6 million dollars has been raised to support the work of Alola in Timor-Leste and the team has kept some of the most pressing issues affecting women in the country in the public eye in Australia – congratulations and a big “obrigadu barak” to our sisters at Alola Australia!

For the second year running, in 2018 I led a Study Tour of 8 Australians on a memorable week-long visit to Dili, Baucau and Balibo. The beneficiary of the fund-raising component of the tour was our women’s cancer support program, HALIKU. At the conclusion of the Tour we were delighted to be able to make close to $AUD 28,000 available to HALIKU to continue the inspiring work it does to educate women and girls about the first signs of breast cancer, the importance of early detection and breast self-examination. Accurate statistics don’t exist, but we know that an untold number of Timorese women continue to die of undiagnosed and untreated breast and other women’s cancers.

I thank all our many valued partners and donors for continuing to trust in our organisation to respond to our women’s most pressing needs across the spheres of education, maternal and child health, economic empowerment and advocacy.

Viva Alola! Viva Timor-Leste!