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24 September 2008

Government Workshop to Support Women's Rights to Land and Property

USAID / RDTL / Ita Nia Rai


Government Workshop to Support Women's Rights to Land and Property 24 September 2008 Dili Timor-Leste

Through collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI), and the USAID-funded "Ita-Nia Rai" project, a Gender Land Law working group was established in May 2008 to determine how to further the Government's efforts to address gender equality in forthcoming legislations on land and property.

The working group held a workshop this week to develop recommendations on how to strenghthen women's rights to land and property through inheritance.

"The majority of women in Timor-Leste have few opportunities to acquire assets during their lifetime," commented Mrs. Idelta Maria Rodrigues, the Secretary of State for the Promotion of Equality.
She added, "For women and girls, inheritance can be an important means of obtaining property, such as land.

Such property is essential to enable women and girls to provide for themselves and their families. Developing mechanisms to strengthen women's rights to land and property are important to move forward and give women security, particularly in the event that they become separated, widowed, or divorced."

The workshop participants gave recommendations on appropriate inheritance procedures given women's situation in Timor-Leste. Such recommendations include to whom and how property should be distributed.

Participants also discussed what happens when someone dies having left or having not left a will. Strengthening women's rights to land and property is important to improve women's lives to be able to contribute to the development of Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and has committed to developing mechanisms to promote equality in access and control of land and property, including access to credit and capital.

"This is in line with the country's Constitution: which in Article 17 guarantees equal rights to women and men, and Article 54 states that all Timorese citizens have the right to private property".

In December 2008, the working group intends to submit its recommendations to the Ministry of Justice, the Council of Ministers and the National Parliament for consideration in legal frameworks regulating property rights.

Working group members include government representatives from the Secretariat of State for the Promotion of Equality (SEPI), the Ministry of Justice, the National Directorate for Land, Property and Cadastral Services (DNTPSC), the Ministry of Agriculture, representatives from civil society and international organizations, including Fokupers, Rede Feto (the women's network), the Justice Sector Monitoring Program (JSMP), Caucus: Women in Politics; the Hak Association, Belun, Advocats Sans Frontieres (ASF); the Asia Foundation; chief of sucos in Dili, and the United National Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

Strengthening Property Rights in Timor-Leste (known locally as the "Ita Nia Rai" or "Our Land" program) is a five-year program funded by USAID and implemented by ARD, Inc. and ACDI/VOCA.

Both implementing organizations have worldwide experience in developing land systems in post-conflict countries and in conflict prevention for community stabilization.

Working with the National Directorate for Land, Property, and Cadastral Services and the Ministry of Justice, the program provides technical and policy support to develop a sustainable and transparent property rights system in Timor-Leste. - Ends

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