Women in Legal Careers: Challenges and Contributions

Empower Women and Girls in the Justice Sector

October 5, 2023

Panelists of Women in Legal Careers

Maria Silvia D.R. Lopes/UNDP Timor-Leste

Dili, October 03 20203 – In a groundbreaking effort to address gender inequality and enhance justice services, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the State Secretariat for Equality (SEI) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), hosted an event titled "Women in Legal Careers: Challenges and Contributions." This event aims to empower women in the legal sector, tackle gender-based violence (GBV), and strengthen the representation of women in decision-making bodies.

Timor-Leste, a young nation, faces significant challenges in its legal institutions, with GBV remaining a pressing social issue. With only 22-24% female representation in the judicial sector, the need to promote gender diversity and equal opportunity in decision-making bodies is evident. Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) underscores the importance of eliminating discrimination against women in political and public life, emphasizing the need for measures that support equal representation.

Additionally, Timor-Leste grapples with high youth unemployment rates, especially among young women. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), female unemployment rates in Timor-Leste are notably higher, making the legal sector's employability challenges even more pronounced. The event will address the barriers young women face in pursuing careers in the legal profession.

Recognizing the transformative power of women in the justice sector, the event sought to foster knowledge sharing and experiences among various female legal professionals. By amplifying women's voices and providing a platform for empowerment, this initiative aims to combat gender bias and promote gender diversity within the justice system.

Students from Timorese Law School.

Maria Silvia D.R. Lopes/UNDP Timor-Leste

The Key discussions from the panelists and the participants include: The main challenges in being a female professional; managing multiple roles; dealing with/fighting gender stereotypes in the justice sector; contributions and positive aspects as we are women; challenges in starting a career; fighting stereotypes; aspirations for oneself and the justice sector; contribution as female professionals. The event featured prominent female legal actors and around 40 students from Timorese Law Schools, with the objective of assessing barriers for women to enter the legal sector and inspiring young professionals.

According to Sra. Elvina Sousa Carvalho, Secretary of State for Equality, “Majority of Timorese women in the country continue to experience difficulties and challenges in accessing justice. We need to continue to promote justice for all, to ensure that vulnerable women have access to justice in the country ”

Dra. Maria Natércia Gusmão, Judge of the Court of Appeal, stated "I invite all women's groups to create a network to facilitate and encourage female finalists not only to become prosecutors or defense attorneys but to be useful to society."

The event aims to achieve several outcomes, including: advocating for Sustainable Development Goals 5 (Gender Equality) and 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) contributing significantly to the promotion of gender-sensitive legal practices and policies; Providing valuable information-sharing, educational resources, and networking opportunities specifically tailored for university students to empower the next generation of legal professionals, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed in their future careers; Establishment of a robust and enduring engagement and partnership between UNDP, women legal professionals, and university law faculties. 


For media inquiries, please contact: media.tl@undp.org

Nelson Philomeno Rego De Jesus, Access to Justice Project Manager, UNDP, nelson.philomeno.rego.de.jesus@undp.org 


Participants at the "Women in Legal Careers" event.

Maria Silvia D.R. Lopes/UNDP Timor-Leste