Dulce Junior is a Timorese 36-year old mother of two boys. As many other women around the world, she manages her time between her family and her job. Since 2008, she was a planning and implementation officer and recently has been promoted as the Chief of Department for the Local Development Programme (LDP) at the Ministry of State Administration (MSATM) of Timor-Leste.
The LDP was launched as a national pilot program in 2004 as one of the components of the joint UNDP-UNCDF Local Governance Support Programme (LGSP). The LDP is aimed at piloting different models for decentralization and local governance and at generating practical lessons for an effective and transparent local governance system - responsive to citizens' needs and focused on improving the quality of life for all the Timorese, especially, the ones living in rural and remote areas.
The LDP team and Dulce support capacity development at the local level through the provision of block grants to local assemblies, enabling them to develop capacities through an integrated approach of “learning by doing” throughout the identification of priorities, participatory local planning, and implementation of small-scale infrastructure, accompanied by training activities.
Beaten during the Indonesian occupation, she has always been involved in supporting women's organization and ensuring their participation in the decision-making process in their own villages. “Women should never believe if a sexist society try to put them down, we are capable of performing any job if we have the willingness to learn”, she stated.
To cope with taking care of her 11 and 5-year-old boys, “Mana” Dulce, as she is called by her colleagues, believes in the importance of a work-life balance: “I wake up really early to take my children to school, then I come to the office. In the meantime, I have to prepare lunch and ensure that everyone in my family is happy”, she affirmed with a smile in her face.
On the work side, Dulce uses to travel long hours for different routes to visit all the districts of Timor-Leste. Her main tasks are to coordinate the Local Development Programme's activities and ensure women's participation in District and sub-district assemblies – the local institutions where decisions on the use of funds provided by the National Government to finance activities and small-scale infrastructure projects are taken - for the benefits of local residents and communities.
“The women living in the villages need to believe that their opinion in project planning and implementation is really important, only they can talk about their needs”, she stated.
Since 2005, the LDP implemented 389 projects in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, among others, in eight pilot districts of Timor-Leste, and provided a series of training at the district level to members of the local assemblies.
One of the challenges faced is been to ensure a high level of participation of women in local decision making to guarantee that women's priorities are being reflected in local service delivery.
When asked about the main difficult that women face in the rural areas, “Mana” Dulce does not hesitate to say that she is touched by the continuous need for water irrigation and pre-natal care for women who still give birth at home. According to her: “Eleven years ago, I was afraid of going to a clinic to have my baby, but, today, it is important that people learn that it is safer to seek doctors for giving birth. If more women looked for appropriate medical support, I'm sure that less women would die, giving birth”.
Mana Dulce, led by the Ministry of State Administration and together with the team of the Joint UNDP-UNCDF Local Governance Support Programme, is supporting the establishment of a fully-fledged local government system in the country and paving the way for citizens' and women participation on the local development process in Timor-Leste.