July flew by, as it always seems to do. Long days become packed with work and the night time seems to quickly slip into the next morning.
July brought about an exciting change for me. I began to spend the majority of my week working for the National Office of Mulheres Mil in the Ministry of Education. Along side two other staff members, one based in Brasilia and one that is perpetually traveling trying to keep this ever growing project running smoothly, I started to outline what a Mulheres Mil portfolio system might look like.
Mulheres Mil which is now a national project has a surprisingly small national coordination team, headed by Stela Rosa. It has been a pleasure working along side such energetic creative people and what I thought would be lengthy bureaucratic processes for the portfolio work have been coming along quite smoothly.
I am realizing working face to face with Brazilians is a world away from working through email. Setting up this project and my work space within the Ministry took months, but once I started working within the same office, quick conversations and check ins took the place of week long waits and email exchanges. I have always valued getting to know my coworkers as people and not simply colleagues and this is something that the Brazilians excel at.
The Ministry of Education is an exciting place to be, Mulheres Mil is of course a quickly growing project with a ton of pressure coming from President Dilma to graduate 100,000 by 2014, additionally the Ministry is pushing forward a billion doller project called The National Access to Technical Education and Employment (PRONATEC). The main goal of this program is to expand and democratize the provision of vocational and technological education courses for the Brazilian population.The hope is that within the next 4 years PRONATEC will provide eight million jobs to Brazilians of different profiles in the next four years.
Lastly, sine May 17th Brazilian Federal University professors have been on strike, now reaching just past three months of on going protests and town hall style events throughout the country. Working at the Ministry for the last month has meant crossing through a line of protesters with flags waving, speaker systems playing chants and pamphlets flying through the air.
This nationwide strike was done in an attempt to push the government into enacting highly sought-after reforms. During the strike, professors will continue their research, but are not holding classes. The decision to initiate this movement was made by professors who are members of a labor federation within Brazilian federal universities,formally known as Sindicato Nacional-Associação Nacional dos Docentes do Ensino Superior (ANDES-SN).
Suffice to say, work has been exciting and I look forward to seeing how my current work with the Mulheres Mil staff unfolds! It also goes without saying that PRONATEC and the recent education strike have provided great gateways to having intense conversations with friends and coworkers about the state of the country and what growth for Brazil has really meant.
The first week of July marked the growth of the Niagara College intern family. Kirsten, a new CIDA intern arrived to kick off her 6 month stay in Brasilia. A few days later Alyssa arrived for her short visit to Brasilia before she heads off for her 6 month placement in beautiful Fortaleza.
I always find it exciting and invigorating to work with young professionals who are hungry to take on new challenges and put themselves out of their comfort zones.
Brazil poses a unique challenge for Niagara College due to the dominance of the Portuguese language. It´s difficult to find Canadian graduates with a fluency in Portuguese. Thus Niagara college searches for graduates with patience, drive, commitment and well, more patience. It takes time to pick up a language and it takes patience and reflection to realize that one is always learning when in a new environment.