(From left to right – Annette, Debbie & Margaret)
This is a guest post written by the three manas! But before we begin, I bet you’re wondering, what does “manas” mean? Mana is a Tetum term of respect meaning sister (older). Tetum is the language of East Timor. During their visit to Knua ba Labarik (an early childhood centre in Timor) Lester they became known as “The Manas”.
Last week 1500 women, men, girls and boys gathered for breakfast at the Brisbane Convention Centre to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) . On IWD each year people gather across the globe to,

“… review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilise for meaningful change.” unwomen.org.au

This event is always such a great opportunity to meet with like minded people and to hear stories not only from our own backyard but across our nation and the world. This year was no exception. Highlights were:

  • Watching a nationwide address from the Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce, who is the Official Patron of UN Women Australia.  (Click here to listen to her address)
  • Being entertained by 2 local choirs – a boy’s choir and a female vocal group.
  • Listening to stories from Sally Sara, an Australian journalist who has reported from more than 30 countries. Sally had us laughing and crying during her 20 minute presentation which was much too short.
  • The actual theme of this event:  UN Women Australia’s theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is Ending Violence Against Women:

“Violence against women is a human rights violation which denies women their most basic rights and freedoms, such as freedom of opinion, mobility and participation in society”

We were happy to know proceeds from this event will go towards ending VAW.

Local organisations are encouraged to promote their work at this event. The Timor Early Learning Network had a small stall where a number of Timorese craft items were available for sale. This network has recently been setup to support a kindergarten in Dili. Margaret and Annette (2 of the 3 Manas) were on hand and were most excited to meet a number of people who had either visited, or were existing supporters of Timor Leste. We are happy to announce we found good homes for lots of lovely BeBe dolls from Atauro Island and we were also happy to make new friends for our network.

About the Timor Early Learning Network

This network was established to support the Timorese women from Knua ba Labarik as they encourage the children, through education, to live in peace and promote non-violent equality.

Who are the 3 Manas?

“The 3 Manas” are from Brisbane QldMargaret – has recently retired from 10 years ownership of Earthlink, a Fair Trade Early Childhood Resource business.
Debbie – an Early Childhood Educator in Brisbane for 15 years
Annette – has been involved with education through TAFE for 24 years and has trained as an Early Childhood teacher

Margaret has had an interest and friendship with East Timor for several years and has been selling Timorese handcrafted products that support a Woman’s group on Atauro Island. She has made 3 visits to the country. In 2010, she hosted Maria (Mery) Barreto the Director of Fokupers an NGO supporting women of domestic violence in Dili, when she came to Brisbane for 3 months, to complete English language training.

In 2011 on her next visit, Mery took Margaret to a Childcare Centre Fokupers had established with the support of Norway in 2010. Mery asked if one of the teachers could receive training in Australia, which was duly organised and sponsored by C & K, and Mercia arrived in Oct 2011 for 6 weeks of invaluable training. Fokupers disclosed at this time that financial support for the Centre had ceased and they currently were receiving no funding.

Debbie now comes into the picture as one of the teachers in the centre where Mercia trained. These two formed a bond as Debbie took Mercia under her wing and got totally immersed in all things Timor.

Annette and Margaret are longtime good friends and travel buddies so it did not take much for Annette to become enthused and excited about starting a project to support the teachers of Knua ba Labarik- Place for Children.

In Oct 2012 the 3 Manas took off to Dili to explore the needs of the Centre, we had collected and sent up a large amount of resources which arrived earlier this year and realised the two main needs for the centre are training and financial support for the eleven staff.

What is the aim of the network?

Our aim is to set up firstly a teacher Sponsorship programme and secondly to organise for early childhood trained volunteers to work for periods alongside the staff at the centre.

How can you get involved?

For more information about how you can get involved or support the Early Learning Network contact one of the manas via their facebook page