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Timor Leste women call for help

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2007

Ati Nurbaiti, Jakarta – Timor Leste women activists called for more solidarity and cooperation from Indonesian women to help build their new nation.

At the launch of Independent Women, The story of women's activism in East Timor on Wednesday, activist Florentina Martins Smith said the book would hopefully increase "knowledge and solidarity" toward Timor Leste women, particularly among Indonesian women.

With all the challenges faced by the fledgling nation, "we need lot of cooperation," said Martins, who is from the Timor Leste Women's Organization (OPMT).

The activists said solidarity is also needed to help the reconciliation process between Timor Leste and Indonesia. Both governments set up the Commission for Truth and Friendship (KKP) to examine atrocities before and after the 1999 referendum that resulted in Timor Leste's separation from Indonesia.

In response to concerns that the Commission will stress forgiveness rather than justice, another activist, Bella Galhos, said "most East Timorese hope justice will remain a priority." For this, she said, "we need solidarity from Indonesians."

Catherine Scott, co-author of the book, said given Timor Leste women's widespread experience of physical abuse, "there would be many problems" if human rights violators were not held accountable. "If you cannot see the perpetrator who raped you brought to justice, then how much harder is it to recover from?" Scott said.

Scott and the book's other author, Irena Cristalis, said their book aimed to document the experiences of Timor Leste women as their country went through the rapid changes of the late 1990s.

They invited several women writers – including from Cambodia and Mozambique – to enrich the book with stories of women's activism in their countries, so that Timor Leste women activists could learn more from their experiences.

The discussion was held by an Indonesian women's organization, Kalyanamitra.