Every now and then, someone asks me what my job actually is over here. So, here you are. I am working in the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste’s Government’s State Secretariat for the Promotion of Equality. * It was organised through Australian Volunteers International (www.australianvolunteers.com). My official title is Gender Research Adviser and I was recruited to work with a specific counterpart, ‘building their capacity’ to undertake research and gender analysis.
In practice, my role is much broader than this, for a few reasons. Firstly, my counterpart, Herminio, is a really hard worker, speaks excellent English and is very conscientious. So, a lot of extra work comes his way, not just research, because he is capable. In a way it’s good for him having me, not just because I am meant to help him learn how to do research (and so I force other people to let him have time to do this) but I am also trying to help him get in the habit of planning his work. This is not him so much as Timorese culture – Herminio has no problem prioritizing or planning his work – but in the Timorese public service (and life more generally) everything happens at the last minute, and very little is planned in advance. So individual plans for, say, writing a literature review get scuppered to attend meetings at other ministries. The first month I was here, when I was just trying to work out what was going on, I pretty much spent the month tagging along to meetings, always at the very last minute.
So I also work with him on prioritizing work, keeping a workplan, remembering to discuss meetings with others, etc etc. I call it ‘Being A Good Public Servant’.
Because Herminio is so awesome and doesn’t really need me to baby him for an entire year, I’m going to start working soon with two other people at SEPI. When my position was created last year, Herminio was the only person in his team. Now he has a team leader, Cisca, and another colleague at his level, Jose. I’m going to start working with these guys soon on their own workplans and seeing if I can assist with their work. They aren’t doing research – Cisca is meant to be SEPI’s contact on the draft Domestic Violence law, and Jose is meant to be working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Timor-Leste. It’s possible they’re doing other stuff I don’t know about though.
When I saw the job description for this position, I said to Matt, ‘This is the perfect gender position!’, and that was why he encouraged me to apply for it. Working in AusAID and the Office for Women, studying anthropology, gender and development and being a postgrad student interested in research – it was like the job was written for me. I tried to have no expectations, because that’s what Australian Volunteers International staff tell you to do. But you always think about how bad or how good it could be. So far I feel very lucky because my job has way exceeded how good I thought it would be. A lot of it is the fact that Herminio is so capable and motivated. So thanks maun (brother) Herminio.
- I like this name because it includes both men and women. I do not like this name because it is long and unwieldy and a strict translation from the Portuguese is a bit different – Secretariade Estado ba Promosaun Iguladade. What I’ve written above is my own Anglo version that I give to everyone – nobody can ever remember what our name is, they just call us ‘SEPI’.