In focus: celebrating women as powerful agents of change through their leadership

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March and in Timor-Leste, the Secretary of State for Equality and Inclusion has determined the theme for 2023 as ‘Women are ready to lead’. On this unique day, we recognise and honour the inspiring female leaders who are transforming our society.


Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by telling others about these powerful women leaders and encouraging them to realise their maximum potential.

Maria Fátima Pereira – Director of FOKUPERS

Mrs. Maria is leading her team, FOKUPERS, to advocate for inclusive national disaster risk reduction processes in Timor-Leste. Gender-based violence (GBV) is frequently made worse in emergency situations because the needs and voice of women can be ignored in emergency planning and preparation processes. Her leadership is crucial to drive her organisation to advocate and ensure women’s specific needs are considered in these processes.


The Disaster READY project is a platform for FOKUPERS to help stakeholders address problems related to gender-based violence in emergencies, according to Mrs. Maria. “Studies have shown that gender-based violence is common in emergency situations” she says.


FOKUPERS is a women’s rights organisation working to address GBV and human rights violations against women and children. Through the Disaster READY project, CARE is providing technical support to local women-led organisations like FOKUPERS to reduce the impacts of GBV in emergency contexts. 

Senhorinha da Costa Araujo – Teacher and health focal point at Faulara, Liquiça primary school

At her school, Mrs. Senhorinha is leading innovations and efforts to combat malnutrition and encourage good health practices.


“Malnutrition doesn’t only affect children’s health – it also impacts their educational achievements”, she says.


After attending the “Living Well, Learning Well” training provided by the HATUTAN Education and Nutrition program run by CARE, Mrs. Senhorinha collaborated with the school’s health promoters and students to start a school garden. Her school harvested a variety of nutritious vegetables for the school feeding program and sold the extra vegetables to the community. The money made from the school garden is then used to purchase hygiene items, fund ongoing garden activities, and promote school health. 

Madalena da Costa – Director of Asosiasaun Esperansa Feto Defisiénsia (Hope for Women living with Disabilities Associations)

Mrs. Madalena is committed to inspire the next generation of women living with disabilities to become future leaders. She previously worked with Ra’es Hadomi Timor Oan (RHTO) and now Asosiasaun Esperansa Feto Defisiénsia, an organisation she helped establish after gaining inspiration from her experience with RHTO.


“I encourage all women living with disabilities to go out there and show what you are capable of”, Mrs. Madalena says.


She recently featured in the Lafaek project’s Jornalista Ki’ik activity – an activity where young school children interview inspiring women and public figures to talk about their leadership.  The project continues to expand its online presence on Facebook and website, as such, our Lafaek team seeks to amplify the voices of women leaders like Mrs. Madalena, to motivate the next generation of women and women living with disabilities to step out and reach their full potential.

Beatris Magalhães – Leader of farmer group

Mrs. Beatris is a women leader of a farmer group from CARE’s HAFORSA 2 project. In rural communities, opportunities for women to act as leaders can be very limited.


“Sometimes all it takes is giving women an opportunity. My involvement with the project made people pay attention to my ability in farming rather than my gender. Members of the group even voted for me to become the leader”, Mrs. Beatris says.


The project boosts women’s confidence and encourages them to take up leadership roles in their farmer groups. By preparing a framework for women’s participation, and creating a supportive environment for women to take on leadership roles, the project has witnessed significant increases in women’s confidence!