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Addressing gender health inequalities in Timor-Leste governance reform and the right to health



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20 July 2009

Abstract: Progress in overcoming health inequalities experienced by women in post conflict Timor-Leste has been undermined by the failure of governance to attach sufficient weight to equality. To address this, the paper proposes the ‘Right to Health’ framework which has marginalised groups, participation and accountability as its principle concerns and demands for structures and processes of accountability that are accessible, transparent, and that empower citizens to participate in planning, implementation and monitoring of their health care. The proposition is timely given the current context of governance reforms that ‘will not only make service delivery more effetive, but also increase participation of all people in government work’ (Minister Leite 19/02/2009). However building meaningful participation of all actors is an enormously difficult process, particularly in post-conflict environments. The paper teases out and highlights the potential of the framework for East Timorese women’s participation in local health governance specifically the proposed municipalities structures at district level.

Bio: Clíonadh O’ Keeffe is a first year doctoral candidate in the School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland, Galway. The title of her research project is ‘Women’s Health, Multilevel Governance and Human Rights in Post Conflict Timor Leste: A Case Study in Engendering Transition’. She is particularly interested in the impacts of governance reform on East Timorese women’s sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and the extent to which the current processes of decentralization taking place in Timor Leste help or hinder the realization of those rights. She holds a Masters degree in Gender and Development from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) University of Sussex, UK. Clíonadh has worked in Timor-Leste in 2000-2002 and 2007 as a UNV with UNTAET and UNMIT and with Irish Aid. She currently works as the coordinator of DERN, an Irish Aid funded Development Education and Research Network in the School of Political Science and Sociology, National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). Prior to joining NUIG she worked as a community development worker in the west of Ireland for almost ten years. The main focus of her work has been to support the realization of marginalized Traveller women’s right to health where she coordinated a rural health project and later a primary health care project within in a rights based non-governmental community organization.



Clíonadh O’Keeffe

PhD Candidate

School of Political Science and Sociology, Global Women's Studies

National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland