Kaye Martin has been attending the CWA's annual Study School for the last 15 years, but she said this year touched her heart deeply as the CWA's country of choice for 2012 was the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.
Kaye said many of the countries they have studied over the years have violence in their past, but none so recent as Timor-Leste, whose people endured horrific struggles leading up to their eventual independence from Indonesia in 2002.
"It was quite incredible learning what the East Timorese have been through from when the Portuguese colonised it through to the occupation by Indonesia and what's happened in the 10 years since their independence," Kaye said. "The massacres and how they were treated by the Indonesians in general was a shock".
A CWA Study School was held recently at the University of New England and included presentations by experts on Timor-Leste, including Paul Cleary, author of Shakedown: Australia's Grab for Timor Oil and The Men Who Came Out of the Ground, about Australia's guerrilla war against the Japanese in Timor in the 1940s. There were also presentations on the role of women's weaving co-operatives and performances and talks by citizens such as celebrated East Timorese singer/songwriter Ego Lemos, whose award-winning song Balibo was featured in the film of the same name, and the country's Consul-General, Ms Maria José da Fonseca Monteiro de Jesus.
CWA NSW now has plans to help women in Timor-Leste in their endeavours to live self-sufficiently and raise money for education by sending material aid such as zippers, fabrics and cottons which they can use to weave garments for their families and to sell. Often this provides enough income for women to feed their families and send their children to school.
CWA NSW already provides material aid to islands in the South Pacific, and often sends ladies over to help local villagers learn how to use sewing machines and other skills so they can make clothes for themselves and their family.
Kaye bought herself several woven items and a doll made by Timorese women that were for sale during the Study School with the profits being used to assist Timorese women with education for their children and themselves. Kaye said education was particularly important to help give more Timorese women a voice in how the country shapes its future.
"In the new constitution - I think they have had about four since independence - it's written that one in three people in parliament have to be women," Kaye explained. "Unfortunately, while women are elected to the head of their village and the parliament itself, they are unable to be very effective because they lack the education they need. Knowledge will help them participate fully."
The CWA Lismore branch is looking for donations of paper, exercise books, lead and coloured pencils, glue sticks, rulers, scissors, pens, string, pegs, pencil sharpeners, chalk and dusters, craft paper and old magazines to send overseas. They can be left at the CWA Rooms in Spinks Park or phone the president Jan Clifford on 6624 1583 to arrange collection.
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