National Women’s Day in East Timor Date in the current year: November 3, 2024

National Women’s Day in East Timor National Women’s Day is a public holiday in East Timor celebrated annually on November 3. It was created to highlight the contribution of women to society and to honor the brave women who died fighting for the independence of East Timor.

East Timor (Timor-Leste) is an island country in Southeast Asia that shares the island of Timor with Indonesia. Its modern history is tumultuous: shortly after East Timor declared its independence from Portugal, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and remained under its control for 14 years. The occupation of East Timor was followed by a three-year transitional period of UN administration.

The country’s recent history is full of stories of women who participated in the struggle for independence and contributed to nation-building after East Timor finally achieved independence in 2002. They were involved in armed resistance groups, gathered intelligence, promoted literacy and education, and helped attract international attention to occupation through solidarity marches, demonstrations and participation in international conferences.

Following East Timor’s independence, 25 women were elected as members of the parliament, representing 38% of the legislative body. Since 2007, several women have participated in each presidential election in East Timor: Lúcia Lobato, Maria do Céu, Angelita Pires, Ángela Freitas, Isabel da Costa Ferreira, Milena Pires, and Armanda Berta dos Santos.

National Women’s Day is observed in East Timor on November 3 to commemorate the death anniversary of Maria Tapó, an East Timorese independence fighter and member of the FREITILIN party. She died in 1975 alongside her partner Siga Mau while defending her home village against Indonesian soldiers shortly before the full-scale Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Tapó is considered the first female combatant to die in the conflict between Indonesia and East Timor.

The proposal to celebrate Tapó’s death anniversary as National Women’s Day to honor her sacrifice was first voiced as early as 1976 by Nicolau dos Reis Lobato, the leader of the East Timorese resistance forces. The following year, the proposal was supported by the women’s organization of FREITILIN, OPMT (Organização Popular de Mulheres Timorense – Popular Organization of Timorese Women), at the meeting of FREITILIN’s Central Committee. The holiday was officially established in 2005, three years after East Timor finally regained its independence.

For eighteen years, National Women’s Day was simply a commemorative day; remembrance ceremonies were held throughout the country, but employees weren’t given an additional day off. This changed in 2023, when the National Parliament of East Timor designated National Women’s Day as a public holiday. Its main goal is to highlight the role of women in society and celebrate their contributions and accomplishments.

National Women’s Day also aims to shed light on the biggest issues that East Timorese women face today. They include a patriarchal culture with strict gender roles, a significant gender pay gap, high dropout rates due to teen pregnancies, gender-based violence, and sex trafficking.

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National Women’s Day in East Timor, holidays in East Timor, public holidays, Maria Tapó, women in East Timor