strong women, strong nation

woman working in timor lesteIt’s over 10 years now since Intrepid began exploring the possibilities of taking travellers to a free independent Timor-Leste (East Timor). Since those early days, Intrepid and The Intrepid Foundation are both very proud to have been associated with The Alola Foundation and their important work with the women and children of this new nation.

The Alola Foundation was established in 2001 by Kirsty Sword Gusmão to raise awareness about sexual and gender-based violence in Timor-Leste and to advocate women’s rights. Alola’s establishment followed a 24-year period of foreign occupation that served to exacerbate women’s vulnerability and exclusion. Women and girls in Timor continue to experience discrimination that prevents them from fully enjoying their rights and limits access to education, health, economic and political participation, and decision-making. But there have been many positive gains, of which Alola’s work has been a huge contributor…

– In 2009, domestic violence became a punishable crime for the first time under either Timorese or Indonesian rule.

– Economic Development programs concentrating on income generation have demonstrated that with training and support, women who previously reported an income of just $0.50 per day, can generate around $5.00 per day through the establishment of networks and learning of management systems.

– And maternal and infant mortality rates have decreased dramatically. In 2003, maternal mortality was estimated to be 800-880 deaths per 100,000 live births. 2010 statistics indicate maternal mortality has dropped to 550 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is mirrored in the infant mortality rate, which in 2003 stood at 158 deaths per 1000 live births, and has since dropped to 88 deaths per 1000 lives births. Much credit can go to Alola’s Maternal and Child Health Program, which has undertaken significant work across the country to improve health education and access to health care.

You can learn more about the progress of The Alola Foundation in the 10th anniversary speech by CEO Alita Verdial at

The support of Intrepid travellers, through The Intrepid Foundation, has contributed to Alola’s Advocacy Program, which works to strengthen women’s leadership and develop networks. The program aims to increase public awareness of women’s rights and to assist women to advocate their needs at the community level, by increasing the number of political candidates and improving their leadership skills. This often starts by creating spaces in which women and children feel comfortable expressing their views and supporting them to understand political processes.

Intrepid’s Timor-Leste trips in 2012 will again include a visit to The Alola Foundation, where we have the privilege of hearing about their work – perhaps from either CEO Alita Verdial or from founder Kirsty Sword Gusmão. And our first trip for the year will be extra special as it begins on the 10th Anniversary of the Restoration of Independence on 20 May, 2012. There will be colourful celebrations galore all across this young nation, so be sure to book early to secure a place on what will be an exciting and inspiring adventure!

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support The Alola Foundation and other great organisations via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

Photo: Jane Crouch

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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