Fortaleza, I´m coming for you on Sunday.

I´m very excited for this weekend and my upcoming trip to Fortaleza,Brazil. I will be traveling to visit a Mulheres Mil Campus, which started it´s work as one of the original 13 campuses of Mulheres Mil back in 2005.

Mulheres Mil National Coordination

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.

Growth of Brazil´s Niagara College Team

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.

Reflection on Salvador de Bahia

I was lucky enough to have been able to spend some time visiting a Mulheres Mil site in Salvador de Bahia at the end of June.Not only does the Instituto Federal de Bahia (IFBA) have more expirience in running the MM program, they are also uniquely situatied in the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture and history.

Our first day of work consisted of a meeting with program coordinators, Paula and Regina. It was interesting to find out that currently the two programs they have running are Elderly Care and Early Child Care with 32 and 40 students respectively in each program. Furthermore we discovered that IFBA´s Mulheres Mil program works with the entire city of Salvador where as Taguatinga Campus and the majority of programs in other campuses have specific target communities. This of course speaks to the realities of a city like Salvador which is culturally incredibly rich but despite this has not benefited from the economic success of Brazil over the past decade and continues to be one of the poorest states in the country. Brazil’s social discrepancies are blatantly evident here, albeit countered by strong social grassroots movements, irrigated by hope and inspired by a heart-warming lifestyle.

Something that struck me quite strongly during my time in Salvador was the racial dynamics of the sharing experiences within the MM classes. It was very rare that a Afro-Brazilian women would volunteer to speak about her experiences. Lighter Brazilian women often volunteered to speak and took up quiet a bit of space sharing about their lives and reflections on the program, this is of course necessary but does raise awareness about race issue still plaguing Brazil. Speaking and sharing in public has a lot to do with power and oppression and these dynamics are still being navigated and dealt with in Salvador.

My time in Salvador was truely eye opening. Brazil is the largest country in the Americas and it was quite apperant how much the socioeconomic reality changes from city border to city border.

In a few short hours I will be on a plane headed to Salvador de Bahia. The first colonial capitol of Brazil and of the oldest cities in the Americas. Salvador is well known for its celebration of Afro-Brazilian culture which is woven in everything from it’s traditional dress, local music and of course food!I will be spending a week in the capitol of Brazil’s northeast working with a local Mulheres Mil (MM) program and visiting a Global Edge intern from Niagara College. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I also get to visit campus Valenca which has started it’s own MM program.I am of course excited to see the Brazilian coast and the incredibly rich culture and architecture of Salvador but I am just as excited to visit with the local teachers and coordinators of the MM program. You see, the only MM program I have been able to interact with in person has been in Taguatinga, a small city off of  the center of Brasilia. It has rapidly grown with the  rise of the Brazilian economy and with it jobs in Brasilia.Cheap rent makes it a popular home to many of Brasilia’s workers who don’t mind the short commute and hectic streets of it’s city center.Taguatinga has been running it’s MM program for a little over a year where as Salvador was one of the original 13 pilot campuses started in 2006. This in itself is going to be such a great experience, spending time with teachers and coordinators who have over 6 years of experience in MM methodology and program logistics.Furthermore each MM program is tailored to the local setting of the women it serves which means target community needs, course offerings and job preparation will all largely differ from Taguatinga. I’m excited and ready to dive into Salvador! Now, it is back to packing for me- I will update once I land!

In a few short hours I will be on a plane headed to Salvador de Bahia. The first colonial capitol of Brazil and of the oldest cities in the Americas. Salvador is well known for its celebration of Afro-Brazilian culture which is woven in everything from it’s traditional dress, local music and of course food!

I will be spending a week in the capitol of Brazil’s northeast working with a local Mulheres Mil (MM) program and visiting a Global Edge intern from Niagara College. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I also get to visit campus Valenca which has started it’s own MM program.

I am of course excited to see the Brazilian coast and the incredibly rich culture and architecture of Salvador but I am just as excited to visit with the local teachers and coordinators of the MM program. You see, the only MM program I have been able to interact with in person has been in Taguatinga, a small city off of  the center of Brasilia. It has rapidly grown with the  rise of the Brazilian economy and with it jobs in Brasilia.Cheap rent makes it a popular home to many of Brasilia’s workers who don’t mind the short commute and hectic streets of it’s city center.

Taguatinga has been running it’s MM program for a little over a year where as Salvador was one of the original 13 pilot campuses started in 2006. This in itself is going to be such a great experience, spending time with teachers and coordinators who have over 6 years of experience in MM methodology and program logistics.Furthermore each MM program is tailored to the local setting of the women it serves which means target community needs, course offerings and job preparation will all largely differ from Taguatinga.

I’m excited and ready to dive into Salvador! Now, it is back to packing for me- I will update once I land!

Deciding to go overseas to build your professional skills is a big decision. It comes with the realization that once you hit the ground you have to be prepared to hustle, for lack of a better word.
It is up to no one but you what you decide to do with your time in country. It requires endless self-motivation and creativity, as well as patience and perseverance. After all, you are new to the country and it takes time and comfort to build trust and to share projects. After almost a month of emailing I was able to have a meeting with the Secretariat of Women’s Politics in Brasilia. We had a great conversation on Tuesday where one of the coordinators outlined how the Secretariat was formed, their guiding principals and current priority areas. I am particularly interested in work to end violence against women as well as creating access points for women for education and the labor market. My interests aligned well with current priorities so I was able to set up a second meeting for this Friday. I will be sitting down with sub-secretariats responsible for the coordination of these three priority areas; -ending violence against women -access points for women for education and work -and the inclusion of women in political life The Secretariat for Women’s Politics is already working with Mulheres Mil, the project that originally brought me to Brazil and that continues to be my main focus. Having a better understanding of their work will help me form a more holistic perspective of the program .It is important for me to be able to situate Mulheres Mil not just within the recent educational movement in Brazil but also in a rights based movement. A movement of course which has been partly paved by institutions like the Secretariat for Women’s Politics.

Deciding to go overseas to build your professional skills is a big decision. It comes with the realization that once you hit the ground you have to be prepared to hustle, for lack of a better word.

It is up to no one but you what you decide to do with your time in country. It requires endless self-motivation and creativity, as well as patience and perseverance. After all, you are new to the country and it takes time and comfort to build trust and to share projects.

After almost a month of emailing I was able to have a meeting with the Secretariat of Women’s Politics in Brasilia. We had a great conversation on Tuesday where one of the coordinators outlined how the Secretariat was formed, their guiding principals and current priority areas.

I am particularly interested in work to end violence against women as well as creating access points for women for education and the labor market. My interests aligned well with current priorities so I was able to set up a second meeting for this Friday. I will be sitting down with sub-secretariats responsible for the coordination of these three priority areas;
-ending violence against women
-access points for women for education and work
-and the inclusion of women in political life

The Secretariat for Women’s Politics is already working with Mulheres Mil, the project that originally brought me to Brazil and that continues to be my main focus. Having a better understanding of their work will help me form a more holistic perspective of the program .It is important for me to be able to situate Mulheres Mil not just within the recent educational movement in Brazil but also in a rights based movement. A movement of course which has been partly paved by institutions like the Secretariat for Women’s Politics.

Mulheres Mil Methodology Training

Last Friday wrapped up the training of new managers on the Mulheres Mil program. New campuses from the northeast and central north regions of Brazil gathered in Brasilia for a week full of project start up, implementation and permanence training.

I’m incredibly thankful to Stela Rosa, the Mulheres Mil national coordinator, who extended an invitation to me for this wonderful week.

I was moved by this training session;
 -the emphasis on life experience as oppose to academic knowledge
-the inclusion of women in planning their own curriculums
-the acknowledgement that women are a powerful source of dissemination and empowerment for their communities

One particular session hit me quiet hard. Once women are recruited to the Mulheres Mil program, each campus is required to hold a “Life Map/Mapa do Vida” exercise with them. This exercise more then anything is for the women to reinforce to themselves that they have knowledge already within. It illustrates that they have come a long way and most importantly that those long difficult paths count. Those are strong starting points.

During the training session for new managers we were all asked to create our own life maps. Chronologically each person documented their story by what they felt impacted them most personally and professionally.

Brazil has never been economically rich. This means most of the current Mulhers Mil managers have had serious hardships in their own lives. This all came out during the Life Map/Mapa do Vida session. Person after person stood up and traced for all of us who they were, who they are and who they wish to become.

Mulhers Mil is much more then a social inclusion program.

Here is a short video I took yesterday of the Ministry of Human Rights Patricia Barcelos’ opening speech for the Mulheres Mil Methodology and Training Conference.

Inspiring day at the Mulheres Mil Methodology overview session. Paul Singer, professor,economist, and heavily published writer gave a great speech which I will post tonight or tomorrow.

Patricia Barcelos of the Ministry of Human Rights gave an equally moving opening talk to the day, reflecting on the passion required to run a program like this and emphasizing the importance of women as catalysts of social change.

A visual look at my first week in Brazil.