[The following is one of the accounts from Better World Books' trip to Brazil to tour schools with our Latin American literacy partner: Worldfund. Stay tuned for more!]
Women are the teachers, women are the mothers, women share what they know and lead by example. Unfortunately many women in Brazil don’t have the education or skills to support themselves. They turn to prostitution or low paying, obtuse work to support themselves and their families. While Brazil’s economy is booming, the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. As I traveled Brazil visiting schools and community programs with our partner organization Worldfund, I noticed many injustices. What struck me most was the role of women in society.
Bebedour is a community outside the beach town of Maceio. Bebedour is like many Brazilian communities. Homes are run down, unemployment is high, waterways are polluted, streets are littered, and the public education system is deplorable. This particular town has an estimated 115,000 human beings living in it and of those 11,000 are school age children NOT attending school. Bebedour may be a typical Brazilian city, but it has one school that is not typical, it is a progressive school that nourishes not only the student’s minds and bodies, but their hearts.
Bebedour, Brazil – Greater Maceio Area
One of the volunteers at the starfish school said something that really impacted me; he said, “For many of the girls in this neighborhood their dream job is to become a maid in a hotel.” These girls have had few positive female role models in their lives to show them that there is more out there than marriage and bearing children. The starfish school is trying to change this by bringing in female professionals monthly. This is an important program because now these girls have dreams of being educators, doctors, and business professionals. Even at the ripe age of nine, these young girls are seeing a bright future and one of independence.
Starfish School – Greater Maceio Area
Entirely too many of the woman of Brazil depend on men to support them. Too often women are left alone because her husband abandons her or he dies. These women are often unprepared to feed their children and care for their home. Thankfully initiatives like the Mao Amiga Women’s Center are available. On the outskirts of the sprawling city of Sao Paulo, this particular program teaches women skills that can provide income for themselves and their family. Classes include computer skills, baking, cooking, hair styling, and many more. These classes last for one year and the women that complete the program leave with more than knowledge; they leave with a self confidence they didn’t have a year before. They can now go out into their communities and earn a living wage.
Mao Amiga Women’s Center – Greater Sao Paulo Area
Thankfully, educational initiatives are changing in Brazil. The government recently made some changes that will help the failing public school system. Within the last year they have increased teacher’s salaries, and standardized the public school curriculum. The change may be slow coming, but thanks to organizations like Worldfund, there are already exceptional programs in place like the Starfish School and the Mao Amiga Women’s Center. These programs not only educate people’s minds, but provide them with a respect for their bodies and self. Self respect and confidence are the fundamental tools to success. Success breeds success and with more positive women role models, the future of Brazilian women and education is hopeful.
Mao Amiga School – Greater Sao Paulo Area