International Women's Day: Celestina's story
30-year-old housewife and mother of five Celestina de Jesus Correia dropped out at sixth grade of primary school in 1988. Like most women in her village in East Timor she looks after her children at home while her husband works.
For five years she was active in a women’s group, “Feto Rua”, in her village. But their work mainly consisted of supporting men during meetings - cooking and serving food and drink. She never talked in public meetings; she served the men in silence.
All this changed when Celestina was introduced to CAFOD’s partner Luta Hamutuk (which means “struggle together”) who held a community briefing in her village in 2009.
Money from natural oil and gas is the biggest source of income for East Timor. But most people have little access to information and most don’t see the benefits of the resources. So Luta Hamutuk works hard to keep communities informed: with CAFOD’s support they mobilize and coordinate local people, ensuring they have a say, and a share of the benefit from the country’s profitable resources.
To do this, they work through ‘focal points’ – locally based people who can pass on information to their communities. Celestina became a ‘focal point’ for her village. She attended her first focal point class in November 2009 and soon after, together with other focal points from her sub-district, proposed to Luta Hamutuk to start a monitoring committee in the sub-district, which was officially established in February 2010.
Through continuing support from Luta Hamutuk in trainings, workshops, seminars and monthly meetings, Celestina has gained the confidence to speak in public and participate in activities like monitoring and advocacy, traditionally attributed to men. For Celistina, becoming a focal point has meant significant changes. “Now I learn how to write reports, she says. “I am more confident to sit with men to discuss problems in my village, more confident to speak in the public, to support people in my village to resolve their problems”.