About Bella

Bella was born in Timor-Leste in 1972. After the Indonesian military invaded Timor-Leste in 1975, some of her brothers were killed and her father was detained by the military. Bella herself was sold for a mere 5 dollars to the Indonesian military, and was later forcefully injected with a contraceptive drug by the Indonesian military, leaving her unable to have children. At the age of 16, Bella joined the resistance and spent her adolescence fighting for her country’s liberation.

In 1991, many of Bella’s friends were killed or captured in the Santa Cruz massacre. Bella herself only narrowly escaped, and she realized that the best way to help her country would be through generating international support from abroad. As a Timorese though, Bella wasn’t allowed to just leave the country. So she devised a long term plan and went undercover by enlisting in the Indonesian military. She then led a double life for the next three years.

“A freedom fighter, survivor of sexual violence, refugee, social activist, trailblazer, Presidential Advisor and an inspiration to the country, Bella Galhos is now working for the future of the children and the land of her country.”

To better equip herself to be an agent for the development of her country, Bella continued her education at the University of Hawaii where she continued to forge connections and support her country. On her return to Timor-Leste, Bella became an Advisor to the President and co-founded the Leublora Green School with Iram Saaed. In 2017, Bella resigned from her position with the government and is now dedicating all her time to the Leublora Green Village and to social activism on issues related to equality and human rights. She is a well-known figure across Timor-Leste and the Asia Pacific who has inspired thousands with her life story to also be agents of change in their communities.

In a test of her loyalty, Bella was forced to endure all kinds of sexual and physical assaults, but after three years Indonesian government was convinced of her loyalty and sent her as a pro-Indonesian representative to Canada. Once safely there, she promptly defected and successfully claimed asylum. Twenty-two at the time, Bella spent the next six years raising awareness of the situation in Timor-Leste and supporting the resistance movement from Canada. When Timor-Leste was finally liberated, Bella returned to work for a UN agency to support the huge task of rebuilding her country from scratch. Having been occupied for almost 5 centuries and emerging from decades of conflict, Timor-Leste was in a grave state.


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