|Subject: Tasmania Support from/for East
Also: Literacy a weapon for women in Timor
Tasmanian Country (Australia)
March 11, 2005 Friday
Support from/for East Timor
EAST Timor is roughly 250km long and less than 100km wide -- making it smaller than Tasmania.
The country has a population of a little more than one million, and has at least 30 distinct communities with their own language dialects, customs and symbols.
An East Timorese citizen can instantly tell which part of the country a fellow citizen belongs to, by looking at the markings on their tais cotton woven cloths. Such garments are traditionally worn as sarongs by males, as dresses by females, or as a long slender cloth called a selendang worn ceremoniously around the neck.
Families have traditionally made their own tais cloths on home made looms with the techniques passed down from Grandmother to daughter.
It could be argued that the East Timorese are richer than Tasmanians culturally -- but there is no doubt that they are economically poorer.
If Tasmania's employment levels, incomes, hospital care, child mortality and power and telecommunications service levels were on par with East Timor -- Tasmanians would regard the situation as catastrophic.
Cultural heritage is among the few resources that groups of East Timorese women have to draw on, for generating income.
Last weekend, the Bothwell International Highland spin-in committee lent a helping hand to East Timor womens' groups, who are trying to develop a tais weaving industry.
The committee paid for representatives from two such groups in the Eastern part of East Timor to come to Tasmania as guest artists at Bothwell's world-class handcrafts competition and exposition.
Among Auria da Silva Faria and Marianna de Costa's priorities are to buy a sewing machine, to improve productivity when sewing tais cloths into garments.
Sister Eufemia Lacenda -- a nun at the Canossian Sisters church in Brisbane and an expatriate East Timorese -- acted as interpreter.
Sister Lacenda said, to their knowledge, it was the first time that East Timorese tais craftswomen had travelled outside East Timor to promote their industry.
She said they were overwhelmed by the Tasmanian's generosity.
Sister Lacenda is helping to develop tais markets in Australia.
On Friday and Saturday at the Spin-in, the women were busy weaving salendang tais cloths using primitive looms made from timber, bamboo and coconut palm splinters.
On Sunday, spin-in participants bid as much as $260 for the cloths.
Making tais cloths for sale only become common following East Timor's independence from Indonesia.
The Mercury (Australia)
March 10, 2005 Thursday
Literacy a weapon for women in Timor
ROSA Xavier says her job is to make sure women are properly represented in the newly independent East Timor -- and she seems to be getting somewhere.
She is the founder and director of Grupo Feto Foinsa'e Timor Young Women's Association.
Miss Xavier is in Tasmania this week, speaking at schools and at last night's International Women's Day 2005 event -- a salon organised by Amnesty International and the International Women's Development Agency.
Ms Xavier said that while life was still very grim for most people in her homeland, there were signs of hope.
"Since independence, women are represented in the parliament with 27 of the 88 seats and two of the leading government advisers are women," she said.
"We still have a long way to go to overcome the years of colonialism and Indonesian rule but girls are now going to school, which did not happen in the past."
Ms Xavier said it was not enough that women learnt basic literacy.
"They must also know how to use it, to make sure they are properly represented in the new East Timor," she said.
Ms Xavier, 28, was involved in active resistance to Indonesian rule.
She speaks five languages and graduated from East Timor University last year with a BA in political science, majoring in government science.
The International Women's Development Agency is supporting her association's literacy and social training for women in rural areas.
This focuses on women who missed out on schooling during the conflict years and are now too old to benefit from the new government's commitment to provide schools for all children.
Those interested in finding out more about IWDA can visit the website at: www.iwda.org.au
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