This article examines the experiences of women occupying reserved seats on the suku councils of Timor-Leste (each of which represents a number of small villages). The limited political participation of these women is often ascribed to patriarchal ideas within rural areas, and the need for capacity development. This article argues, however, that there are further structural issues at play, whereby the interaction between traditional and modern governance makes it difficult for women occupying reserved seats to make their mark. While gender quotas can be a useful tool to encourage women’s political participation, these structural issues need to be recognised and addressed in order to truly empower women.
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