Methodology. How to talk about Gender, Poverty and Violence in relation to Timor-Leste?
Clíonadh O'Keeffe Independent Researcher; Gender Justice Activist; Humanitarian Worker
Armed conflict significantly increases women’s vulnerability to gender-based violence (GBV). In Timor-Leste, a society affected by brutal regimes of colonial oppression and violent political conflict, women face a life-time of poverty and discrimination. The pervasiveness of GBV against women is also well documented. Understanding gendered poverty, and GBV is a complex process requiring holistic analysis of interconnected and mutually reinforcing aspects of women’s lives (Fiske and Shackel 2015). However, cycles of violence and women’s lived experiences across a continuum of violence are still not well understood. Notwithstanding decades of feminist research, when thinking about GBV there has been a tendency not to reflect on women’s poverty, standards of living, and other economic social rights and well-being issues, such as the unequal division of unpaid care work. Likewise, GBV has remained relatively absent from concerns with human development (Kabeer 2014) and unequal care relations. Known as the gender-poverty-violence nexus, True (2012) has reflected on whether a relationship exists between women’s gender relations, their poverty and their likelihood of experiencing GBV, and asked what this connection might look like. Drawing on my doctoral research, this paper presents the two-by-two structure of analysis I developed to address this important question. The empirical context is Timor-Leste where I collected qualitative data which I analysed through the paradigmatic constructs of marriage and motherhood, combining Connell’s (1996) Theory of Gender and Power with elements of Heise’s (1998) ecological framework. Findings from my research suggest that a major aggravating condition for persistent and egregious GBV against Timorese women is the presence of multiple forms of gendered poverty including non-material poverty. Often considered the central energy force integral to the human condition and quality of life within the family, these non-material issues are underpinned by a conflict-affected patriarchal gender order constituting institutionalised gender inequalities that continue to be deeply rooted in every-day life in Timor-Leste today.