Note from BW of Brazil: In recent years, numerous projects, programs and seminars focused on black culture and entrepreneurial enterprises have changed the lives of numerous Afro-Brazilians, bringing opportunities that simply didn’t exist just a few decades ago. While many of these projects have helped their beneficiaries to earn enough income to help make their lives just a little easier or further the expansion of the growing ethnic market, some have been able to capitalize on opportunities and business savvy to earn enough income to move into Brazil’s upper middle and upper classes. Below, we bring you yet another inspiring story that is changing the lives of numerous black women in Rio de Janeiro as they continue preparation for the 2016 Olympics.
Project increases income of black women in Rio communities
By Akemi Nitahara and Marcos Xavier Vicente
They sew, cook, give workshops and attend events where they sell their products, teach the tying of turbans and talk about cultural identity. These are some of the activities of Nêga Rosa project, developed in seven areas of Rio de Janeiro and directly serving 240 women in the communities of Mangueira, Barreira do Vasco, Chatuba de Mesquita, Arará, Jacarezinho, Manguinhos and Tuiuti.
Starting from the work of 120 women with low education, 29 of them from the prison system and 20 with cancer, the project will provide 5,200 of 22,700 cushions that athletes will use in the Vila Olímpica (Olympic Village). Because of the Olympics, the project’s production will increase 40% and the income of seamstresses will rise from R$400 to approximately R$1,500.
“This represents a lot for these women, since nearly 90 of them support their children alone, without the help of a companion,” argues the manager of the Nêga Rosa projects, Érica Portillo.
According to the project coordinator, Érica Portilho, working towards women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship and development of identity, black women in situations of socially vulnerability, ex-convicts, single mothers and special needs women were able to increase their monthly income per capita.
To participate in the project, those interested had to fill in forms. “From this we make a selection. The others are on a waiting list. But, as we have several open activities, they also end up participating and, if anyone quits, they will be engaged and we’ll managing partnerships in other territories,” said the coordinator.
Érica explains that the idea is to disseminate as much as possible the knowledge passed on by the project, which has received the a prize from the Fundação Banco do Brasil (Bank Foundation of Brazil), of Favela Criativa. “If we managed to develop a social technology that has been recognized by such an important foundation, we think it should be disseminated. We’re going to the territory, do a practice of one week, 20 hours, and then those women are ready to teach and multiply for other women.”
Andrea Soares sews, promotes a turban workshop and also participates in the coordination of Nêga Rosa. For her, one of the most important points of the project is the redeeming of the self-esteem of the black women of the community. “Making a redemption of their citizenship, because today we have within the school study of the culture of another ethnic group, but this is not contemplated, so with this children in the community are without identification. So the idea is to bring this identification to older people so they can also replicate it with their children.”
One of the project participants, Vanice Carrera, stitching and cooking, says the Nêga Rosa gave strength and motivation to help her overcome cancer facing for more than two years. “I had a health problem and was very still. And that to me fit like a glove, I can’t sit still, I have a broth to make, I have a jam, sweets to deliver, some seams. For me it’s being very good, passing on to others what I have learned. I’m doing chemotherapy. So here’s what’s maintaining me, it’s very good not to stop, [it’s good] to know that, even with problems, you still have forces, you’re being useful, producing.”
Érica points out that the workspaces assembled by the project, with kitchen and sewing machines, can also be used by women to produce and supply to customers independently of Nêga Rosa. In Mangueira, for example, where the work began a year ago, hair bands and hats for the souvenir shop of the community’s escola de samba (samba school) are made.
According to the coordinator, the project is also looking for partnerships in the area of e-commerce and in November starts working with girls 12-18 years old who meet socio-educational measures in the General Department of Socio-Educational Actions (DEGASE). On October 31st, the Nêga Rosa project will host a fair in Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) during the Conferência de Juventude (Youth Conference), in which 30 entrepreneurs of the state of Rio de Janeiro will be present.
Kely Maria Silva, 48, already knows what she’ll do with the extra income: devote more time to family recreation. “I want more take my grandson for a walk, go to the movies, the mall and have lunch out more often with my husband and my children. It’s great to know that we work in order to do this,” said Kely, one of the oldest members of the project.
The pieces follow the standardization of the Comitê Rio-2016 (Rio 2016 Committee) in terms of colors. However, the seamstresses are free to create the design that will be on one of the cushion faces – in the case of Nêga Rosa, with elements of Afro-Brazilian culture. On the other, there will be a text explaining the project so that athletes learn about the initiative.
Jurema da Silva, 55, unemployed for 15, promises not tear her eyes away from the television during the Olympics. In addition to tracking competition, she will be attentive if any athlete doesn’t appear taking home a souvenir of the cushion she made. “Can you imagine if an athlete appears with the cushion I made? I’ll be very proud,” said Jurema, who has a preference for one in particular: volleyball player Lucarelli. “Besides being a dedicated young man, he is very handsome,” she says.
But to try to find her cushion on television, Jurema will have to get a new pair of glasses, which she hasn’t changed since 1996. “With the money from the cushions, I’ll buy a new one,” she says of her plans for the money.
Other work is being done for the Olympic Committee Rio 2016. Nêga Rosa won an edital for a printing press that will provide 5,000 cushions for the accommodation of athletes. “There were four winning projects. Our stamp is a samambaia do mangue (mangrove fern), a plant of Brazilian vegetation. Behind the cushion, tells the story of the project, in Portuguese and English and will be a cushion for athletes to take to the whole world,” said Érica.