Subject: BBC: De Mello on Women in Timor Friday, 6 December, 2002, 10:32 GMT


Bridget Kendall: Asif, New York, USA: If there was one achievement or issue that you would like to address during your term in office, what would it be? What criteria would you use to determine whether you have been successful?

Sergio Vieira de Mello:

We have talked a lot about women but we haven't gone to the core of that issue. I would like to tell you what I think has been my greatest achievement is in East Timor which I administered for two-and-a-half years and it would also be perhaps my greatest achievement as High Commissioner at the end of my four year mandate.

We have achieved in East Timor a silent revolution. Women were treated as second, third class citizens when we arrived there because of the same reasons - history, tradition, culture, religion etc. In two-and-a-half years - which is a fairly short period of time - we have managed to have more women in parliament, in the constituent assembly which is now the parliament of East Timor, than in most developed countries with the exception perhaps of the Nordic countries. We have women playing fully their role in the political, in the administrative, in the social, in the economic and in the cultural life of the country. We have one-fourth of women in the new police, we have women in the new defence force.

Women today are exercising fully their rights. Of course a lot still remains to be done, particularly at home in terms of curbing domestic violence that is rampant all over the world. But if I could achieve in these four years such progress in terms of respecting the rights of women and empowering women all over the world, well that will probably be my greatest achievement.

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