Skills development

Zety’s dedication and strength

Behind her calmness and softness, there lies great enthusiasm and strength. Lizete Maria Maia dos Santos, 42 years old, is one of few women in Timor-Leste working as a Village Livestock Worker, and has done so since 2003.

Feature | 09 June 2016
Lizete Maria Maia dos Santos
Behind her calmness and softness, there lies great enthusiasm and strength. Lizete Maria Maia dos Santos, 42 years old, is one of few women in Timor-Leste working as a Village Livestock Worker, and has done so since 2003. Considering her achievements and dedication, Zety, as she is usually called, was selected and appointed as a civil servant by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries of Timor-Leste in 2012 at the Livestock Health division for Maliana District, Bobonaro Municipality, located in the far west of the nation.

Initially she was just an ordinary housewife, busy taking care of her family and her late husband who worked at the livestock quarantine section in Maliana. However, in 2003, as a graduate from an agricultural school, Zety was offered to become a Village Livestock Worker (VLW).

At first, when doing my village visits, locals tended to underestimate me as they did not believe a woman could perform vaccinations. They considered this job too heavy for women."

Lizete Maria Maia dos Santos

The VLWs were initiated to support the roll-out of the Government livestock vaccination campaign. The VLWs received training on livestock vaccination and equipment and medicine. For the campaign Government paid the VLWs per animal vaccinated. The VLW also treat sick animals and cost for medicine and treatment is paid by the receiving farmer, the cost ranging from US$1 to US$10, depending on the type of treatment and medicine.

In 2012, Zety was selected as one of the 10 best VLW in Bobonaro district to participate in the revitalization programme held by the International Labour Organization (ILO) through its Business Opportunities and Support Services (BOSS) Project. This programme is part of the Project’s beef value chain development initiative and focuses on improved cattle health, nutrition and reproduction, as part of an effort to increase sales value.

As a VLW, Zety and her co-workers are each assigned to manage one of seven villages in Maliana District.

“I am assigned to Raifun village. At first, when doing my village visits, locals tended to underestimate me as they did not believe a woman could perform vaccinations. They considered this job too heavy for women,” said the mother of six sons.

“This cannot be true, can she really work?” said Zety, imitating what the local communities would say, disbelieving her capability as a VLW  However, she refused to give up.

“I proved that I could do this job. I could perform a vaccination without getting kicked by the cattle,” she said, smiling.

For Zety, vaccinating small animals such as chickens, pigs and goats is an easy task.

“Small animals are easy to vaccinate. My biggest fear is to vaccinate cows, as they tend to move and kick you. But, I have my own way to tame cows,” she added. During a vaccination session, she can vaccinate 50 cows and buffaloes in one day.

The most important thing for her is to provide livestock education and health services to local communities. She is even willing to travel far, visiting remote areas. “I do not need to be paid with money. I accept anything given by local communities,” she said.

In the first selection stage, only 10 people passed, then it was eight and by the end of the selection, it was only I who was elected as a civil servant."

Lizete Maria Maia dos Santos

Not surprisingly, she often receives animals as payment - from chickens to goats, cows or buffaloes. She breeds these animals to support her family, while the money she receives is then used to purchase medicine.

Her dedication and hard work yielded a good result when she was elected to participate in the civil servant selection process in Bobonaro Municipality, together with other 20 VLW colleagues.

“In the first selection stage, only 10 people passed, then it was eight and by the end of the selection, it was only I who was elected as a civil servant,” she said of the selection process.

As a civil servant, she is still allowed to have a double role as an APS worker outside her regular, official working hours.

“As a civil servant, I serve local communities for free from 8am to 5pm. However, for service requests after my official working hours and during weekends, I can accept payment from villagers,” said Zety, who is also a mentor for other VLWs.

Zety has also been actively participating in several training programmes to continue strengthening her capacity as a VLW. These programmes are part of the partnership between the Institute for Business Support (IADE) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) in improving the cattle sector in Timor-Leste.

In addition, ILO in collaboration with Mercy Corps, has linked Dili based animal medicine suppliers with district based kiosks to improve access to animal medicine for farmers. The kiosk owners calls on the VLWs to administrate the medicine to the sick animals to limit wrongful administration of the farmers themselves who lack the proper knowledge.

“I am pleased to learn more about health, nutrition and animal reproduction,” said Zety. Her fieldwork is mostly focused on animal health and less on nutrition and reproduction.

“Now, I can give counselling on nutrition and reproduction that are equally important to maintain the quality of the livestock,” she said.

With her sons growing up, this tough woman continues to dedicate herself to local communities. Riding her motorcycle, she visits Raifun’s people every day to enlighten them about animal health and care. She often comes home late.

For the future, she hopes that her VLW co-workers can also be appointed as civil servants just like her. She is also proud that more women are now becoming village livestock workers.

“Since 2014, there have been more women in this profession. I am happy,” said Zety, whose eldest son is now a college student majoring in petroleum techniques.

The story was written by Bernabe Mesquita Soares and Leto-Ranger, staff of the Institute for Business Support (IADE) under the Minister of State, Coordinator of Economic Affairs (MECAE)