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International Relations

Advocate for Peace and Progress

Milena Pires elected to major seat on gender equity at the United Nations

Milena Pires Milena Pires

DILI – On what should be a lazy Saturday, Milena Pires is hard at work. She’s up early, checking emails, responding to queries, writing reports, and preparing for a meeting over brunch at a hotel to discuss her latest campaign initiatives on gender.

Her tireless advocacy work has turned her into one of the world’s most recognizable figures for gender equity and women’s political participation. In 2010, she was elected to represent Timor-Leste on the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee. Her election to this important post gives Timor-Leste a visible voice on this increasingly important issue.

A former country director for United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in TimorLeste, she is also a founding member of the Timor-Leste’s Women’s Network that gives her the platform to advocate for women’s participation in security and public policy discussions. She believes that Timor-Leste can be an example to other countries, noting that Timorese women fought alongside men for the independence of the country, and that their sacrifices should not be forgotten.

Women must be aware of their potential for transformative leadership in order to make a real difference through their participation, she says. She is proud that without the use of quotas, 27 percent of women were elected to the Constituent Assembly in Timor-Leste.

“Ms. Pires is one of many strong and independent women who are groundbreaking leaders in Timor-Leste, highly motivated and dedicated to serving the people”. Ágio Pereira Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers

“Women’s participation in and contribution to the resistance broke some of these (prevailing) stereotypes, and helped make it easier for women to involve themselves in the political process,” Pires previously said.

Early Political Life

Pires got her start in politics and advocacy early: She spent her formative years in Australia during the 1980s, where she helped organize on behalf of TimorLeste.

After independence, she took on greater responsibilities in women’s empowerment, governance and development. The year Pires was elected to CEDAW, she was one of 23 experts globally to serve on the committee that monitors the progress made for women in the 186 countries that ratified CEDAW. Pires began her term on January 2, 2011.

Her election to CEDAW earned high praise from other leaders, including Timor-Leste Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Borges.

“This win only goes to show that small islands have big ideas, big dreams and can contribute big,” Borges said in a statement.

Other government leaders credit her for keeping the country focused on equality for everyone.

“Ms. Pires is one of many strong and independent women who are groundbreaking leaders in Timor-Leste, highly motivated and dedicated to serving the people,” A?gio Pereira, Secretary of State for the Council of Ministers, said in a statement.

Ten years after Timor-Leste became an independent country, Pires is inspired to do even more.

“I believe that this is very important work,” she said.

Small wonder she gets up early.

For more information on CEDAW, go to


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