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Cablegate: Embassy Dili Nomination for International Woman of Courage

VZCZCXRO6147
OO RUEHDT
DE RUEHDT #0275 3020300
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 280300Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY DILI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4122
INFO RUEHDT/AMEMBASSY DILI 3609

UNCLAS DILI 000275

SIPDIS

FOR EAP/MTS AND G/IWI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN KPAO PHUM TT
SUBJECT: EMBASSY DILI NOMINATION FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMAN OF COURAGE

REF: STATE 99729

1. (SBU) Embassy Dili is proud to nominate Sister Guilhermina
Marcal as an International Woman of Courage. Sister Guilhermina
is the manager of Canossa Balide camp for Internally Displaced
Persons (IDPs). When Timor-Leste erupted in crisis May 2006,
hundreds of residents of the Balide neighborhood of Dili flocked
to the compound of the Canosssian Sisters seeking refuge.
Normally a training centre for nuns, the compound has at times
housed up to 8,000 people driven from their homes by violence.
2. (SBU) In her months running the camp, Sister Guilhermina has
worked miracles in terms of ensuring adequate supplies in terms
of food, water, clothing, shelter. She has not simply relied on
distribution of supplies from local humanitarian relief
agencies. When provisions of shelter, food, and other supplies
ran short, Sister G would import containers of materials through
her international church connections. She did not hesitate to
put all the resources of her religious order at the disposal of
those in need: at one point she used the annual budget allocated
to her library in order to buy extra food supplies for the
people taking refuge in the IDP centre.
3. (SBU) In contrast to other IDP camps in Timor-Leste, the
Canossian Sisters' compound has never been troubled by criminal
activity or gangs. No one enters the compound armed; Sister
Guilhermina has strictly enforced a policy of surrendering
weapons as a price of entry, and on the occasions where some
have violated this rule, she has personally confiscated their
weapons.
4. (SBU) Sister Guilhermina is a recognized force for
reconciliation and dialogue in the Balide neighborhood, which
remains racked by gang conflict. On several occasions, she has
put herself in harm's way during pitched gang battles,
encouraging those fighting to cease. She has also initiated
dialogue processes that resulted in warring gangs signing
binding peace agreements.
5. (SBU) Unusually in a male-dominated society, Sister
Guilhermina has never hesitated to speak truth to power. She is
an outspoken advocate for the weak and oppressed, and never
hesitates to draw attention to their plight even at the risk of
rattling the complacency or even incurring the antagonism of
those in positions of authority. 6. (SBU) Embassy Dili believes
that this record qualifies Sister Guilhermina for consideration
as an International Woman of Courage.

RECTOR

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