While I Can Lift My Hands, I Work (trailer)

Senora Rosa Quenat and Senora Maria Oki lead the HAFOTI group in Oecusse. After a group work session, they distribute the money earned

While I Can Lift My Hands, I Work is a short documentary - a portrait of women in a business co-operative in Timor-Leste (East Timor). This collective of women - who are building up from subsistence living in remote rural areas towards financial independence-- is called HAFOTI.
Starting from the resources they have - plants from their gardens - the women create security for themselves and their families. Although many of the women are illiterate themselves, they are often able to send their children on to university.
I worked with HAFOTI as a VSA volunteer marketing advisor, and came to admire the strength of the HAFOTI women as they went about built their businesses in often very tough circumstances.  Following on from the VSA role, I had a short volunteer assignment taking photos and videos for Caritas Aotearoa (who support HAFOTI) .This year I have edited that material in to this 20 minute documentary.
While I Can Lift My Hands, I Work is premiering in Timor-Leste's very first film festival, the Dili International Film Festival in October. 
A fund raising opening in New Zealand will be held in Wellington on November 14. If you would like an invitation, contact me here

Children are always part of the work day for the women. Morgan is helping her mother make plantain chips

Senora Rosa Bilou joined HAFOTI as soon as it was formed in 1999. The fight for Timor-Leste's independence from Indonesia had left her a solo mother of nine children, with no way of supporting them, until she learnt to run her own businesses. She now manages a number of businesses. This is her shop.

Senora Maria Oki filtering the virgin coconut oil the group have made together. This is the last stage in the labour intensive process. 

Senora Grasensia Nina with her baby Bobo outside the small house that has been built for her and her two children to love in. Grasensia has recently joined HAFOTI so she can support her family herself.

Senora Marcella Oki in her home. She has been able to install ceramic flooring - no more dirt floors.

Hand squeezing coconut cream to make virgin coconut oil

Senora Fatima Falo chopping coconuts

Senora Maria Bobo weaving the traditional cloth of Timor-Leste, tais. Tais are worn for clothing and used as ceremonial gift exchange.

Grasensia Nina's older son Jerminu is able to attend school because she now earns enough to pay for clothing and notebooks

Mana Lourdes da Santos fries plantains grown in her garden into chips

Mana Lourdes da Santos and Mana Bernadina Periera in the centre, making soy milk from soy beans from their garden. Development funding from New Zealand has meant the women can work somewhere better than a member's house

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