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West Timor: Women in Action

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From WFP - Gender News No. 21
Not many people knew about WFP's presence in West Timor before the onset of the crisis as the focus was on the East. WFP started a Food for Work project there before the influx of 250,000 East Timorese refugees. WFP was one of the first and the only UN agency to have an international staff presence from the beginning.

Hai is one of the local staff who was recruited to help with the suddenly increased workload. She energetically answered the never-ending telephone calls, went by scooter to the airport and the various NGOs, and patiently welcomed numerous visitors. She left a lasting impact on my mind. When I first went to the camps, my moves were restricted, but unlike my male counterpart, who was surrounded by mostly militia members, I had women and children following me. After the distribution, I asked another new friend from World Vision whether she ever got scared about the security situation. She replied with a smile - "No, I am not afraid because I am helping these people. Besides, I am now more convinced that it's better to be a woman in this kind of situation, as the militias are less suspicious of women, so it is easier to get things done.

Coco Ushiyama