Day 29 - Monday 15th December - Gender and Land Workshop
So, East Timor's Ministry of Justice are revising their Civil Code. A significant part of this is looking at the succession of property between people on marriage, divorce, death, etc. This is quite an undertaking, as they have to:
- translate the original Portuguese Civil Code into Tetum, via Indonesian,
- decide which parts are relevant, and
- check this against current practice and traditions in Timor.
The workshop I attended today was the fourth in a series which aim to get comments from local NGOs and government on how to make the Civil Code, particularly anything to do with succession of land, gender-sensitive.
Any of my friends who work in gender or development will understand how huge this is, and how excited I was to see this happen, let alone to be involved (how awesome is it to be involved in the making of new laws for a new country???? pretty awesome!!!). Usually, when someone wants 'gender-sensitive' comments made on a program / project / law etc, it goes like this:
Step one: Organisation designs program / project / law.
Step two: On the last day open for comments, organisation contacts gender unit / consultant and says 'Can you make this gender-sensitive? Oh and we need it back by 5pm today.'
Step three: Gender person bangs their head on the desk repeatedly.
It is a lot easier to design a project / program / law with women's and men's, girls' and boys' needs in mind, as opposed to trying to fix an inherently unequal item.
Interestingly, there were a lot of men involved in this workshop - as opposed to the usual 1 man to 50 women that you get at gender workshops in Australia. I don't know whether this is because men tend to get the decent jobs here, so there are more men at lower levels of government and NGOs, or what. I suspect it is partly that. Still they were all genuinely involved - it was very nice to work with men who would just stand up and say 'yes this paragraph is unfair, it will disadvantage women in polygamous marriage' - no handwringing, no 'what about the men', just straight up noting that X will disadvantage women and everyone working together to think of a better way to draft the paragraph so men and women get a fairer deal.
It's an odd disconnect in a country where domestic violence is so high and attitudes about women's and men's roles seem very fixed. I would like to look into this more.
But, in conclusion: days like today are what I came to East Timor for. I got to be a small part of something that will make a huge difference - I hope.