Wonder Women of West Timor

The stories of three Wonder Women through the lens of a photojournalist, Nyimas Laula

An aerial view of dry riverbed and limestone hills in Timor.

For the last two years, the regencies of West Timor where many Wonder Women live have been experiencing drought, causing poor access to clean water. Most of the rivers in West Timor have only a small amount of water running through them.

People in the villages usually divide the river into three parts: the upper section for drinking water, the middle for bathing, and the lower section for washing clothes.


Wonder Woman #1, Mama Dety, Kefamenanu District

This is Bernadetta Amsikan — or as most people call her — Mama Dety. Here she is at her home in Kefamenanu District, West Timor. As a full-time teacher, a mother of five children, and a Wonder Woman she starts her day earlier than the crowing rooster before driving to school on her rusty motorbike to teach her students.

During the weekend, Mama Dety sings with the locally famous ‘Cecilia’ choir at various events such as wedding ceremonies.

Kefamenanu is a Catholic-majority district, but it’s common to see people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds living together in harmony.

“In Kefa, we rarely have any problems with other religious groups. During Christmas mass, Muslims around the neighborhood offer their assistance while we pray, and likewise we are there to help out our fellow Muslim neighbours during their Holy day”, said Mama Dety as she tells us about her home town.

While doing her regular shopping, Mama Dety enthusiastically tells people she meets about the clean energy technologies she sells as a Wonder Woman. She has already distributed hundreds of clean energy technologies over the past two years.

People from a village in Kefamenanu gather to watch Mama Dety demonstrate how to use a stove that uses solid biomass, such as agricultural waste, as fuel. Most people in the area use kerosene or ‘tungku api’ for daily cooking, believing it’s safer than gas because they heard that an LPG tank exploded recently in the area. The biomass cookstove is an interesting new option for them.

Approximately 34% of households in North Central Timor have no electricity (Dinas ESDM NTT, 2016). Even in the town of Kefamenanu, electricity is still not stable and there are frequent power outages. Once she has finished teaching, Mama Dety travels around her neighborhood to share information about the benefits of the clean energy technologies including solar lights that can provide families with light in the event of a power cut.


Wonder Woman #2, Mama Lisa, Central Insana District

Twelve miles to the east of Kefamenanu, through barren lands and dusty roads, people of Letmafo village in the Central Insana District, West Timor, gather in a Lopo — a traditional house made from bamboo. They are meeting their friend and relative Lisa Afeanpah — or Mama Lisa — who is a Wonder Woman.

Mama Lisa passionately demonstrates how the water filter works to her family and neighbours. She shares her experience and benefits filter she gets from using Nazava water filter for the last year.

As the sun goes down, teenagers and adults walk back and forth carrying water from the river to their homes along a dirt road in Letmafo village. The younger ones turn the daily task into an opportunity for fun and games and bring their makeshift bamboo carts along.

In the upper section of the river, there was a small reservoir that was created to collect clean water. However, during the dry season, there is little water here. While people in the cities could pay to have water delivered by truck , people in the village have no other options.

Mama Lisa explains how important it is to have technology like water filters in places like Letmafo. She explains that the ceramic filter is impregnated with silver and has a core of activated carbon which removes any bacteria or harmful substances from the water, making it safe to drink.

This is Agustina Bano bringing home a water filter she just bought from Mama Lisa in Letmafo Village, Central Insana.


Wonder Woman #3, Mama Regi, Atambua District

In Belu Regency, 15 out of 81 villages do not have access to electricity (Dinas ESDM NTT, 2016). Babulu Village is one of those villages. Located in a mountainous area of Central Timor bordering Timor-Leste, the residents of Babulu must walk for around two hours to the river to get clean drinking water.

This is Regina Dobe — or Mama Regi as most people call her. She is a 45-year-old Wonder Woman and in this photo she is holding a solar light on a pitch-black night in Babulu Village, Belu Regency. She spent her childhood in Babulu before moving to Atambua to pursue higher education.

Mama Regi’s husband, Domingos, plays a song on his violin. Domingos and Mama Regi lived in Indonesian-occupied East Timor from early 90’s until they moved to West Timor after the referendum in 1999.

Mama Regi’s kind nature shines through as she welcomes us into her home. “Let me make Timor-Leste’s famous pudding for you, it’s my husband’s favorite.” She has recently joined the Wonder Women program and already she has distributed more than 20 biomass cookstoves and several solar lights to people in her village.

Mama Regi visits Babulu village frequently as she takes care of her parents and grandparents who live there.

In Babulu, she demonstrates how solar lights can make a difference for people living in this village where electricity is not yet available. “Maybe I will never experience having electricity, until the day I die”, said the village chief of Babulu.

In a government office in Raakfau, Belu Regency, Mama Regi and a volunteer demonstrate how a water filter works . She secures a deal with the office that will sponsor her to distribute water filters and solar lights to villages throughout Raakfau.

This is Andre, he is seven. He is holding a solar light in Babulu Village, Belu Regency. Despite geographical challenges making access to basic infrastructure challenging in many remote parts of West Timor, Wonder Women are taking the initiative to find different solutions. Their passion and hard work is providing access to simple but life improving technologies for children like Andre in remote underserved locations.


These Wonder Women are encouraging each other to find and help people in places where there is limited access to water and electricity.

This photo story is created by Nyimas Laula on July 2017 as part of ‘Indonesian Women for Energy’ campaign which aims to raise public awareness about the important role that women play in energy access — particularly from clean energy resources.