Meriantinha Guterres, a Woman Engineer trained in the ERA Agro-Forestry (ERA-AF) Project which is funded by the EU, actively portrays how women are involved not only in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) fields, but can also contribute to socio-economic changes.
Eng. Meriantinha Guterres, 29 years old, works as a Site Engineer for Lolita Unip. Ltd., which is implementing road rehabilitation works along Larigutu – Builale road, Viqueque. Meriantinha after graduating from secondary school, pursued higher education from 2012 to 2016 at the Engineering Department of the National University of Timor-Leste – UNTL, majoring in Civil Engineering. The fifth child of eight siblings, Meriantinha, chose civil engineering because of her fascination with construction, and also to demonstrate to others that women are capable. This follows the course being seen as a male dominated field, as it is perceived as physically demanding and involves working under difficult conditions such as under the scorching sun and other extreme weather conditions.
Having finished her studies in 2017, Meriantinha started working as a Field Engineer implementing road rehabilitation works along the Mulia to Quelicai road in Baucau Municipality, after securing a contract with Develop Timor Company. She then moved to work as a Field Engineer for Sikola Company on a Clean Water Supply project in Dili in 2018. In 2019, she then got an opportunity through Lolito Unip.Ltd. to participate in a 6 months training programme implemented by the ERA-AF project to prepare engineers, supervisors, contractors, and local authorities for road rehabilitation works. After the training, she commenced her works from August 2019 until presently. The engineer admits that her work is challenging and can be exhausting at times; however she loves the job which has given her courage to persevere. She is also encouraged by her family which has supported her as she explains, “my family know the course I opted for, and so they also understand consequences of working on project sites.”
Although, faced with many challenges, Mariantinha appreciates the ERA-AF program and the donors EU for implementing an inclusive project in which she can contribute to the changes within the community through access to markets, employment, skills, gender participation and income support. The project approach of providing structured training, including exposure to on-site practical works which enables them to implement works under real conditions, is seen as well-packaged. She also lauds the project providing Field Coaches from Don Bosco Training Centre who coach and assist them when faced with technical challenges. In parting, Mariantinha has the following message to share, “We women can also perform ably, as we are strong and have the will”.