Abstract: Gender and development being fundamental issues, it is important to emphasise the role of women in rural development, gender–specific approaches to development and women’s status in the national and international legal systems. The main aim of this article is to analyse the position of women in Timor-Leste by examining social aspects, with an emphasis on gender roles, the family and the community, access to natural resources and women’s status within the legal system and traditional legal structures, with special attention to land and women’s land rights. This study is based on documentary sources and studies made by the authors about Timor-Leste. The contribution of the women of Timor-Leste to development is heavily constrained by the degree of gender inequality present in traditional/customary law and social practices, and in-equality of access to natural resources, especially land. In overall terms, we would argue that the Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) is one of the best approaches to guarantee gender equality, and that this approach should be considered in the formulation of rural policies and the creation and implementation of rural development programmes and projects in Timor-Leste.