The project is focused on some of the least well off in Paraíba State - women from traditional Quilombo (slave descendant) communities, those living on the outskirts of towns and cities, together with women who live in rural communities and those who gather and sell shellfish.
Whilst over 1 million people in Paraíba live in poverty, it’s women from low-income communities who are especially vulnerable, often being discriminated against throughout their lives. There’s a high incidence of violence against women and typically it is the men who control family money. Wives and daughters tend to have little say in how it is spent meaning that less money goes towards family needs.
The Economic Empowerment; Better Lives project sets out to enable women to gain more control, by giving them the resources and skills to generate their own income and plan for the future. The initiative is being made possible by a special partnership with two Brazilian civil society organisations – Cunhã Coletivo Feminista (a feminist collective) and Casa Pequeno Davi (a youth organisation). They have long experience of supporting women’s groups or enterprises, and have been collaborating with United Purpose in Brazil for many years.
Three strands of Support
The project takes a three strand approach to creating opportunity, giving women the resources and support they need to raise themselves up out of poverty.
Firstly, the scheme provides the equipment, materials and training that women need to improve the quality of their products, increase sales and improve access to markets. The equipment provided could include anything from freezers, stoves and ovens to weighing scales, graters and cooking utensils. The women will receive training on business management, learn how to set the price of their products, and get advice on marketing and sales - including support with branding. Some of the women will take courses on product design & quality control; food preparation and diversification of products, whilst others will learn about rural and eco tourism.
Secondly, women who haven’t yet registered their businesses, will be introduced to different options available to them - e.g. to register as an association or cooperative - and they’ll be supported through the process. Once that’s completed, they will have a better chance to access financial support and secure greater sales.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, all the women involved will have workshops, meetings and visits to help them develop strategic plans on how best to grow their particular businesses in the future. The emphasis will be on increasing business sustainability and resilience, so that the women become self-sufficient for years to come.
Tackling gender inequality
This new UP project is designed not only to put money into the hands of women, but also to tackle gender issues more directly. The work and domestic contribution of women in Brazil usually goes unrecognized or unvalued by husbands, partners and communities. To address this, and the high incidence of violence against women and children in the Northeast, the programme also sets out to challenge inequality and violence against women through discussion and reflection on gender issues.
A ripple effect
The majority of women taking part in the programme are illiterate or have never completed primary education and over 60% of them have been forced to rely on federal government handouts.
Ask UP’s Country Director, Angela Brightling, ‘Who’ll gain from the programme?’ and she’s very clear that that it will have a ripple effect. ‘The empowerment of these women will also benefit their families and the wider community. When women gain greater self-esteem, self- confidence and knowledge about violence and gender rights, whole families benefit from improved relations in the home. Girls in particular, gain from having a strong female role model and receive more support to make their education a priority. ‘
Economic Empowerment; Better Lives, funded by Penny Appeal, is focused on developing viable livelihood options for 150 women in North East Brazil. Both United Purpose and Penny Appeal work to transform lives and empower communities around the world, helping to break the poverty cycle and build brighter futures. Find out more about United Purpose and our work in Brazil here.