Breaking barriers and building bridges in Timor-Leste's police force


My colleagues questioned my ability to lead. It was tough and

I was in a dilemma. Should I just let it pass and then close the door

to other women trying to step up?”


Dili: May 30, 2019

Words and pic: Helio Dearaujo

UN Women


Meet Timor-Leste’s first female municipal police commander, Superintendent Natercia E. S. Martins, who earned the rank within 10 years of service with the National Police of Timor-Leste (PNTL).

Growing up in the mountain village of Ermera, Superintendent Martins learned to be a strong woman from her father, a former member of Timor-Leste’s Defence Forces. He was the only family member who supported her dream of joining the police. 

Her motivation to join the PNTL and stand up for justice, found roots during her activism for the independence of Timor-Leste in 1999, which exposed her to the injustices and violations against youth perpetrated by Indonesian security forces. She decided to find a way to inspire more youth and more women to walk with her and realize the dreams of the resistance fighters.

She invests her time and own resources, for example using her own car, and collaborates with the church and Veterans to deliver her message about security issues to unreachable areas.  

Her motivation and zeal has propelled her career and has resulted in many opportunities to develop, inside and outside the country. 

My full dedication to work and serving the institution has led me to receive training opportunities and promotions.”

Within just 10 years she was honored as a municipal police commander in Liquica. Like many working women, she has balanced her role as a police officer alongside her role as a mother. And despite these dual roles, in 2011, she managed to complete her law degree after four years of enrollment.

“As a woman commander, I have many supportive friends. However, as the only female municipal commander for several years, it doesn’t guarantee your voice is strong enough to be heard.”

Leading at a young age, and as a woman, brought countless doubts, even within the institution.

''My colleagues questioned my ability to lead. It was tough and I was in a dilemma. Should I just let it pass and then close the door to other women trying to step up?”

Superintendent Martins says justice agencies should trust women as they are strong and multi-tasking.

We are mothers who serve the family and police officers who serve the country.

''Women have to be economically independent. So, having a baby shouldn’t stop our career to sustain our kids and should not force us to rely only on our husband.”

Superintendent Martins has continued leadership and participation training in the police force. She has also recently been selected with five other women to become a UN peace keeper in the future. This is part of Timor-Leste’s government’s commitment to the ''National Action Plan 1325,''  Timor–Leste’s 2016-2020 National Action Plan under the pillars of Participation, Prevention, Protection and Peace building.

NAP 1325 is the result of a participatory,  multi-stakeholder process initiated by the Secretary of State for Security in 2013.

The four pillars are the foundation of the promotion of women and girl’s rights to a life in peace and security and the promotion of their equal and active participation and leadership in peacebuilding and development.

The NAP aims to both compensate and recognise women’s suffering as victims during the past conflict but also acknowledge and ensure women’s contributions during the liberation struggle are valued in society. 

Part of this work has been supported through the ''Women, Peace and Security program'' at UN Women with the support of Government of Japan.

Print   Email