Fundasaun ALOLA is a not for profit non-governmental organisation operating in Timor-Leste to improve the lives of women and children. Founded in 2001 by then First Lady, Ms Dr. Kirsty Sword Gusmao AO, the organisation seeks to nurture women leaders and advocate for the rights of women by addressing problems relating to education, economic development, maternal and child health and advocating women’s rights. Fundasaun Alola recognises multi-dimensional disadvantage including limited access to education, a lack of sustainable economic opportunity, poor health status (particularly maternal and child health), and a recent history of oppression and trauma, as interrelated problems that limit the capacity of women to assume positions of leadership and access their rights.
“Fundasaun Alola is concerned with directly addressing the barriers that prevent women in Timor-Leste from enjoying their right to good health, education, socio-economic opportunities and political participation for the benefit of all people in Timor-Leste, as reflected in Alola’s motto “Feto Forte, Nasaun Forte” (Strong Women, Strong Nation).
Alola’s five key program areas include Operations, which oversees all organisational logistics and resource management, and the following:
The Maternal and Child Health Program (MCH) was established in 2003 to respond to the health needs of women and children in Timor-Leste. Originally tasked with promoting exclusive breastfeeding and good breastfeeding practices under the directive of the National Breastfeeding Association and The Ministry of Health, the MCH’s activities have expanded immensely since then. The maternal and child mortality rates of Timor-Leste are one of the highest in the region of South-East Asia. The department continues to successfully implement programs that help improve safe motherhood and early child health. The strengths of the MCH department lie in its national staff, who design and deliver culturally appropriate programs that respond to community needs, with support from various national and international partners.In the context of encouraging national and international interest in improving the health and nutritional status of women and children in Timor-Leste, the Alola Foundation is proud of its particular contribution to improving maternal and child health.
Infant mortality rates are still unacceptably high with 45 children out of every 1000 live birth failing to celebrate their first birthday. The data shows that infant mortality rate of rural are higher than in urban area which 61 deaths per 1,000 live births to rural areas compared to 42 deaths per 1,000 live births to urban areas.
More mothers needs to receive pre and post-partum care because the evidence shows that there were 57 percent women in urban areas access to pre and post-partum care and only 24 percent in districts.
Malnourishment remains extremely high with 27 percent of women estimated to be malnourished; 45 percent of children under 5 underweight; and, 58 percent of children fewer than 5 identified with stunted growth. It has shown that infant and maternal mortality rate is higher in rural area than urban area. Considering to that, its Alola program activities have targeted to the remote area that having higher issue of maternal and child health.
The Education and Literacy Program pursues an objective to capacity build to expand opportunities for women through increasing access and quality of education for women and children in Timor-Leste. Since its establishment in 2001, the program has worked to build relationships with the Ministry of Education, as well as national and international organisations concerned with improving education systems. Alola’s Education and Literacy staff model best practice teaching and learning methodologies, deliver teacher training, and develop resources to promote early numeracy and literacy. In 2017, the Education Program increased its reach by 1)Continuing its scholarship support to students at primary, secondary school and university; 2)Providing support to primary school leaders and teachers through a professional learning and mentoring program; 3)Promoting the importance of reading within the community as whole and increasing children’s interest and ability; 4)Developing opportunities for early learners through the Alternative Preschool Home-based and Centre-based in Viqueque and Ermera
The Education Program has continued to work closely with the Ministry of Education. Communities, children and students, schools and their teachers continue to benefit from Alola’s integrated approach to service provision – multiplying outcomes by combining Education with Advocacy, Maternal and Child Health and Economic Empowerment.
The Advocacy Program undertakes public education, research and promotion of women’s rights with a view to promoting legal frameworks that reflect women’s rights, and providing women with practical skills that allow them to pursue positions of leadership. The Advocacy Program engages in campaigns for women’s rights, provides humanitarian assistance through associated networks, and provides opportunities for young women’s development through its Women’s Resource Centre. In 2017 Alola’s Advocacy Program continued to promote women’s human rights through campaigning, strengthening women’s leadership, strengthening the collaborating with all partners and empowering women in all municipal areas to access information and understand their rights.
Advocacy Program team members participated in international training in advocacy strategy development. The Advocacy Program supported young women and men to access free computers, library and other information, and provided women’s leadership training including prevention and protection against gender based violence through the referral system and community based discussion and open Citizen Forum and gave space for women to participate effectively in all sectors of life, and campaigned on women’s human rights by celebrating special events for women.
The Economic Development Program provides opportunities for women across Timor-Leste to participate in economic life through small business, cooperative producer groups and finance education. The Program aims to reduce poverty and promote cultural heritage by working with women to improve their skills producing quality textiles and other handcrafts, of increased value to both national and international markets for their use of local cottons and natural dye plants. Alola’s Economic Development Program is comprised of highly skilled national staff who advise women’s groups on quality control, safety, business skills, marketing and fair trade practice. The Program partners with local and national NGO’s and bilateral partners with a view to sustainable income generation for women and their families.
During 2017, Alola’s Economic Empowerment Program continued to work in partnership with the Timor Leste Government and a range of donors to empower women and promote economic self-sufficiency. The program’s goals are to strengthen women’s economic participation in order to improve the status of women, to increase income generating opportunities and promote economic independence.
The Economic Empowerment Program continued to develop its ability and influence to encourage economic and positive social change in Timor Leste society. Programs to empower women included supporting women to stimulate their businesses through access to micro credit as well as handicraft industry development to improve women’s economic standing and help preserve Timorese cultural identity.