Improving economic independence in Timor-Leste

14 January 2019

Thirty-three year old Marta was struggling to meet her family’s needs. Married with four children, living in a rural village in Timor-Leste, Marta felt trapped.

She and her husband worked hard as farmers but food was scarce and money was tight — which meant she could only send two of her four children to school.

“My husband and I had to borrow money at high interest but we had no choice,” Marta says.

With funding through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), Caritas Australia and its Timorese partner, local NGO Bale Alekot Neu Oecusse, could support Marta to turn her life around.

Marta attended training programs in small business management and local food processing, as well as learning water and land conservation techniques.

She was also introduced to a sustainable loan scheme. This encourages participants to build up their savings which improves their financial resilience and ability to participate in community life.

“I got the opportunity to borrow the money from the savings group to run small businesses,” Marta says.

Caritas Australia Acting Manager for Timor-Leste, Ranmal Samarawickrama, says the ANCP-funded program has helped Marta to improve her economic independence.

“We’re seeing Timorese women build their confidence and take more leadership in household decisions through this program. Families are more resilient now,” Ranmal says.

For Marta, the greatest improvement in her situation is knowing that now all four of her children will have a fair chance at gaining an education.

“My family and I now have a better life compared with before I joined the group. We have enough food for the whole year and have enough cash for emergencies,” Marta says.

Through her hard work, and with the support of Australian aid, Marta and her family have a better chance at life.

Family of mother and father and four children
Family life has changed for Marta as a result of her involvement with Caritas Australia. Credit: Caritas Australia
Woman smiling
Marta feels more confident now. Credit: Caritas Australia
Last Updated: 14 January 2019