Women are being empowered in leadership positions through WaterAid projects and helping their communities to access water, sanitation and hygiene. They are also learning key skills and gaining the respect of community members.

In the traditionally male dominated society of Timor-Leste, Uvaldina is the newly appointed President of her village's water committee. She is excited about the prospect of safe water improving the lives of community members as they currently have a long journey to collect dirty water.

Water committees are established to guide communities through the process of accessing water, toilets and hygiene, and then ongoing maintenance. “It is important to prevent disease in the community and that is why I am the water committee President. In the future people can change their daily life so it is better than before…I like being President because I love my village and I love my community and I received the job because the community chose me…Everyone trusts me and we always work together.”

In another Timor-Leste village, Juliana is Secretary of her village’s water committee. While they gained access to water and toilets several years ago, the active water committee ensures the ongoing maintenance and sustainability of the borehole water system, toilets and hygiene practices.

“I lead the community to collect money from households to maintain the water system. I visit community members to collect $1 each month to maintain the water system. People are happy to pay the money. The community maintains the water system. We work together to fix the system if it is broken. Last year there was a problem with the water because it was coming out slowly so I used a tool to fix the pvc pipes.”

WaterAid undertakes gender training in villages which challenge the usual notions of men’s and women’s work in the community and inspires people to think differently about gender roles.