Importance of the Family in Timor-Leste

Tue. 16 of August of 2011, 17:56h

The traditional Timorese culture - so well defended during the resistance period, and that served to help defend the argument for independence, due to the cultural difference regarding the occupying people – is based on the complexity of the family structure practiced in Timor-Leste.

It is a very particular structure, often misunderstood by the malae (foreigners). It is no accident that even people that do not know each other, in Timor-Leste – and that which is already being used by the malae - call themselves by mana or mao (if age or social situation is similar for women and men, respectively), tia or tio (whether it is someone older, a generation or two), avó or avô (if of an advanced age).

In practice, children, godchildren, cousins or persons from the same connection in the traditional structure, are considered immediate family, a situation that reflects the central structuring role of family ties in the Timorese society.

"The bond of kinship provides a long-term perspective, which lacks in other relationships. The permanence of family relationships, usually guaranteed by a biological link, allows, in a greater extent, to build trust and mutual commitment. Anchors are created - material and emotional - between individuals and their families. This means that a strong bond exists in society, which has guaranteed the well-being of families, in extended families such as the ones that exist in the Timor-Leste traditional structure.

Family solidarity exists, especially visible in ceremonies such as weddings, funerals, or in fetus sa umane ceremonies (relatives by marriage, either on the woman or the husband’s side), which are traditional ceremonies that are still preserved in our society", explains the Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves.

In Dili, with the rapid modernization observed in recent years, it is already possible to find Timorese families who adopt a non-traditional way of life, where parents and children live alone, without the rest of the family. This change - inevitable - will have its impact on social structure. One of the most immediate consequences is the break of the solidarity bond that has been practiced and developed over time. Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves believes that awareness and preparation for this change has to be made, at a social level, and especially by government responsible persons.