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“Generally in the world it is tough to be a female engineer, and in Timor Leste it is especially hard due to social beliefs that engineering is a male profession, and that women should be in the kitchen, or always below a man.” explains Dulce Adolzinda Ximenes Soares; civil engineer, Timorese woman, and founding member of Feto Enjiñeira (Women in Engineering) in Timor Leste, an organisation Engineers Without Borders Australia is proud to work closely with.

Feto Enjiñeira aims to empower women engineers, and build professional capacity through training, collaboration and knowledge sharing because as Dulce explains, “it is difficult for women to be a leader in something here, so this group supports women in their professional career.”

Members have access to training and mentoring as well as networking, internship and scholarship opportunities. “We may come from different backgrounds, but we share knowledge and experiences with each other, which is very motivating,” says Dulce, “Together we bring our positivity to empower more women to get involved in engineering and create a better future in Timor-Leste.”

Just as important is that Feto Enjiñeira is locally-led; providing relevant initiatives and a knowledge sharing forum for female engineers that is nurturing an important new generation of engineers in Timor Leste. Having gained independence in 2002 after years of conflict, the country is working hard to overcome some tough challenges. Currently four in ten Timorese live below the national poverty line, three in ten people still lack clean water and over half the population has no access to a toilet. The private sector too faces difficulties including a low-skilled workforce and poor infrastructure, and women face significant barriers in accessing education and employment.

“Community organisations like Feto Enjiñeira play a crucial role,” explains Heidi Michael, Acting CEO of EWB Australia “ and we support Feto Enjiñeira in order to increase the capability and diversity of professional engineers and build sector-wide capacity in Timor-Leste, especially with regard to our partner organisations and the development sector.”

With women’s participation in the engineering sector in Timor-Leste well below 30%, Feto Enjiñeira also provides female role models for young women starting their engineering careers.  “Sharing the knowledge of a professional female engineer with young students, boosts their confidence and transition from university to their professional career; helping to produce better young graduate engineers.” explains Dulce.

With plans to expand the group and recruit more local staff, Dulce is upbeat, “I am able to work with a group of women sharing great ideas to empower women. I didn’t get that during my time as a student so I am happy not to see them struggle as we did. My dream is to see more women in engineering, and give hope to others for the future.”

This program is supported by ANCP and Australia Aid.