5 Min Inspiration: Women in Timor Leste take charge

In Timor Leste’s HAMORIS project, women make up 25% of community leadership positions—which means they’re performing better than the US Senate, and just slightly below the US House of Representatives. The decision-making is more than just at the community level. Women are also 7 times more likely to have control over decisions about their own bodies than they were before the project started.

The HAMORIS project is running from 2017-2021 in Timor Leste with $672,000 from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It reaches 1,136 people directly and 190,785 indirectly. Since 2017, it’s been able to measure positive change in the lives of 20,585 people.

What has changed?

  • Women are safer giving birth. Women are 2.5 times more likely to give birth with a skilled birth attendant, which dramatically increases their chances of survival.

  • Women can get the family planning they want. Women are 2.3 times more likely to know about modern contraception, and 54% more likely to be using it to space out their pregnancies.

  • Women have more control over their lives. Women are 7 times more likely to be making their own decisions about sex and their sexual and reproductive health.

  • Families are sharing the work. It’s 85% more likely that fathers and other family members to be helping mothers feed babies and take care of them than they were before the project.

  • Women are leading. 25% of women hold leadership positions. Perhaps more importantly, men in the community are starting to report that this is a good thing and they respect women leaders.

  • People are spreading the word. Mothers are 3.5 times more likely to share information they learned in health support groups with others.

  • Services are higher quality. 84% of people are satisfied with their health services, and 90% of people think that Community ScoreCard processes have improved relations between communities and health service providers.

How did it happen?

  • Score your work. The project uses Community ScoreCard to help communities and health staff talk about what to improve so everyone gets better care.

  • Move from diagnosis to action. 9 health centers in the project set up action plans to improve services.

  • Support women. The project set up mother’s support groups that 98% of mothers are satisfied with. 63% of women attend those groups regularly, and 23% go sometimes.

  • Support men. There are also father’s support groups, where 96% of men are satisfied with the groups. Men attend a little less regularly than women—only 46% of men attend often, and 45% go sometimes.

  • Work with frontline health workers. The project works with local “Family Health Promoters” to help reach the last mile and get information to people who have a hard time making it to health centers.

  • Think beyond health. Community ScoreCards often raised issues that were outside of the scope of health service providers. But often, working together health providers and communities could connect to governments and local NGOs to solve the problems anyway. For example, in one community, 40 families got solar panels to help them access electricity.

July 2021