REWRITING TIMOR’S FUTURE
What would hit the headlines in many cities today — rapes, violent deaths and burnt houses — was hardly surprising to most Timorese in their 24 years of Indonesian occupation.
Not long after 78.5% of its people had voted for independence in 1999, Timor-Leste suffered a widespread bloodbath. By the time international peacekeeping troops intervened, many of its people were already traumatised by their extreme exposure to violence.
Pro-Indonesian militias left behind close to 60,000 burnt houses, with nearly a third of its population fleeing to the mountains. Hundreds of women were sexually violated, and thousands more murdered.
With close to 400 years of historical conflict behind them, it may be argued that peace has always been a mere myth in Timor-Leste. Since its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste continues to struggle with deep divisions amongst its people. Close to a tenth of Timorese belong to gangs, and for most of them, violence is nothing but normal.
Recognising the desperate need for peace-building skills and recovery for a population stricken by trauma, Ba Futuru, which means ‘For The Future’, was established in 2004.
How and why was Ba Futuru created?
The basic reason we established this organisation was due to the high number of abandoned children in our society.
Our organisation is here to support these children, promote their rights and also teach them to know their rights and obligations.
It was this very reason that Ba Futuru was established in 2004 by three women: two international experts in conflict resolution and human rights, Sierra James and Dr. Leilani Elliot, together with a Timorese, Joana dos Santos Camoes.
What projects are you currently working on and who are the people you are helping?
For now, we are working on 5 main projects, which are:
- Consolidating Peace and Democracy Initiative (CPDI);
- High Schools Transformation Project;
- Early Childhood Development Initiative;
- Pathway to Justice Project;
- Afterschool Programme; and
- Drama Programme
In our Early Childhood Development Initiative project, for example, we conduct summer camps for the children.
I lead the program of Consolidating Peace and Democracy Initiative, and we work together with the Ministry of Interior and the National Directorate for Conflict Prevention in Community.
We will conduct trainings with community leaders, community-based organisations, community police, youth representatives, mediators and focal points in community and suco councils (village councils). We felt that since they dwell within their community and would have interactions with the people in it, it would be effective for them to learn how to find solutions for their community’s problems.
What are your organisation’s goals for the next 3 to 5 years?
We want to focus on 4 important areas: protect the children, reduce violence by focusing on peace building, empower women and inspire young learners.
Ba Futuru wants to see a society of Timor-Leste free from violence, where everyone can engage meaningfully in the country’s development in a peaceful, positive and productive way.
We plan to meet these goals through training, capacity building, training for trainers and building strong relationships with our targeted communities, government and other organisations.
Tell us more about your collaborations with other organisations.
So far, we have always collaborated with organisations that are working on issues such as peace building, child protection, women empowerment and gender issues. We have peace-building working groups, as well as a national network for conflict prevention. When we are working with these groups, we will share our current and future plans with them during meetings.
However, the peace-building working group is not always active. Currently there are no organisations willing to host the meeting. Dealing with various organisations, our challenge is meeting the different schedules and programmes of every stakeholders, thus it is quite difficult to gather all organisations at any one time.
What would make an effective leader in business, government or civil society?
People can claim that I am a leader. People can say I am a maun boot (big brother). People can say I can do this and that. But the key to be a good leader is to continue to learn. Never say enough! Keep on studying to be a good leader.
Also, as a leader you have to learn from mistakes, you have to listen to your people, and even the children on the streets. These are the 2 things that can make you become a strong leader.
To be a leader is not an easy thing; it takes time and a long process to be good leader.
Ba Futuru is a leading national not-for-profit organisation with more than 50 staff and volunteers from throughout Timor-Leste and the world. Since its founding in 2004, Ba Futuru has provided life-enhancing programming to more than 30,000 children, young people, women, parents, teachers, community leaders, police, government and other key community actors. In 2013, they received the International Outstanding Leadership Award in Conflict Resolution from the Association for Conflict Resolution in the United States. To find out more, log in here: http://www.bafuturu.org/
This interview with Vidal Campos Magno, acting director for Ba Futuru, was done by Elsa Pinto, Timor-Leste, from the class of SEAGULL 2015.
The South East Asian Global Undergraduate Leaders’ Programme (SEAGULL) is an annual capacity-building leadership programme, which brings together ASEAN and Timor-Leste undergraduates who have the potential to be part of social change in their countries, and in the greater region.
The Institute for Societal Leadership, established by Singapore Management University, conducts applied research, creates and amplifies content about societal leadership, and invests in current and emerging societal leaders through leadership development programmes, for the betterment of society.