Maria Lúcia LOPES de OLIVEIRA
AMERICAS · Philippines
Feminism as a tool for development
For generations, the North Eastern region of Brazil has been legendary for its great poverty and the totally submissive role of its women. The amazing successes of Maria Lucia, a 43-year-old social educator, seem to indicate that there is a link between the two. Since 1996, she has been working for a pioneering feminist organization, Cunhã Coletivo Feminista. Since 2003, she has been stimulating the development of activities related to developing a higher level of consciousness and social organization among women agricultural laborers in the Paraiba State.
The project entitled “Sowing gender in the remote semi-desert regions” is profoundly innovative because it aims at sustainable development using a feminist vision. When the project started, women’s organizations were totally inexistent in the region. For the very first time, a feminist organization accepted the challenge of developing systematic activities based on education and feminism in a State 2,3 times the size of France. The program contributed to developing feminine competences in the fields of human rights and the role of a citizen, political and economic autonomy through agricultural production and income generation. And all that was done on soil, which was considered sterile!
This program is absolutely unique inasmuch as it illustrates a global and holistic approach, which includes development, rights, health, the environment and an increase of the power of women. It became extremely successful in transforming the lives of rural women who in turn have become agents of transformation in their own communities. As women in a series of rural communities became conscious of their power, they started speaking out and assuming their leadership, including in areas, which until now had been strictly the prerogative of men.