Fundasaun ALOLA is a not for profit non-governmental organisation operating in Timor-Leste to improve the lives of women and children. Founded in 2001 by then First Lady, Ms Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the organisation seeks to nurture women leaders and advocate for the rights of women by addressing problems relating to education, economic development, maternal and child health and advocating women’s rights. Fundasaun Alola recognises multi-dimensional disadvantage including limited access to education, a lack of sustainable economic opportunity, poor health status (particularly maternal and child health), and a recent history of oppression and trauma, as interrelated problems that limit the capacity of women to assume positions of leadership and access their rights.

Fundasaun Alola is concerned with directly addressing the barriers that prevent women in Timor-Leste from enjoying their right to good health, education, socio-economic opportunities and political participation for the benefit of all people in Timor-Leste, as reflected in Alola’s motto Feto Forte, Nasaun Forte (Strong Women, Strong Nation). Alola’s five key program areas include Operations, which oversees all organisational logistics and resource management, and the following:

The Maternal and Child Health Program (MCH) was established in 2003 to respond to the health needs of women and children in Timor-Leste. Originally tasked with promoting exclusive breastfeeding and good breastfeeding practices under the directive of the National Breastfeeding Association and The Ministry of Health, the MCH’s activities have expanded immensely since then. The maternal and child mortality rates of Timor-Leste are one of the highest in the region of South-East Asia. The department continues to successfully implement programs that help improve safe motherhood and early child health. The strengths of the MCH department lie in its national staff, who design and deliver culturally appropriate programs that respond to community needs, with support from various national and international partners.

The Education and Literacy Program pursues an objective to capacity build to expand opportunities for women through increasing access and quality of education for women and children in Timor-Leste. Since its establishment in 2001, the program has worked to build relationships with the Ministry of Education, as well as national and international organisations concerned with improving education systems. Alola’s Education and Literacy staff model best practice teaching and learning methodologies, deliver teacher training, and develop resources to promote early numeracy and literacy. 

The Advocacy Program undertakes public education, research and promotion of women’s rights with a view to promoting legal frameworks that reflect women’s rights, and providing women with practical skills that allow them to pursue positions of leadership. The Advocacy Program engages in campaigns for women’s rights, provides humanitarian assistance through associated networks, and provides opportunities for young women’s development through its Women’s Resource Centre. Alola continues to play an important role in the development and promotion of laws and policies that protect women in Timor-Leste, including the Law Against Domestic Violence, promulgated in 2010, and the Referral Mechanism for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, completed in partnership with IOM in 2010.

The Economic Development Program provides opportunities for women across Timor-Leste to participate in economic life through small business, cooperative producer groups and finance education. The Program aims to reduce poverty and promote cultural heritage by working with women to improve their skills producing quality textiles and other handcrafts, of increased value to both national and international markets for their use of local cottons and natural dye plants. Alola’s Economic Development Program is comprised of highly skilled national staff who advise women’s groups on quality control, safety, business skills, marketing and fair trade practice. The Program partners with local and national NGO’s and bilateral partners with a view to sustainable income generation for women and their families.