Preserving traditions through empowerment

Pernambuco is a state in northeast Brazil. Four years of a repressive right-wing government and the ongoing legacy of colonialism have left women and afro-indigenous people in the region fighting to preserve their traditional ways of living, their lands, and their rights.

The cultural heritage of native people in the Pernambuco region provides invaluable knowledge of how to live sustainably. Local women’s organisations need to be strengthened in order to retain and share this knowledge.

The Gender Responsive Resilience and Intersectionality in Policy and Practice (GRRIPP) project, implemented by a collective of universities, provides small grants to boost the capacity of these local organisations.

The four-year global collaboration and knowledge exchange project aims to bring together theory, policy, and practice around gender equality and sustainability, to re-think international development challenges and initiatives. Non-governmental organisations, grassroot associations, and researchers from and based in the Global South are the primary recipients of GRRIPP funding.

The studies and research activities GRRIPP supports aim to further knowledge in concepts, policies, and actions that encompass the wellbeing of the most marginalised people, challenging inequalities and sharing alternative views on ‘development’. Pernambuco region projects support the interests of people whose gender and ethnicity are often discriminated against, including diverse community experiences with black, indigenous, gypsy women, LGBTQIA+ communities.

Groups who often struggle to receive funding can use the small grants to strengthen their organisation and fund activities which help them to disseminate their knowledge of the land, their culture and spirituality.

For instance, different groups in Pernambuco used the grants to construct buildings they needed: a traditional kitchen in Xukuru, a midwives’ practice space in Tracunhaem, and a laboratory to process medicinal herbs in Serra dos Pau Dóias. These physical spaces provide the foundations to improve food security and healthcare making local groups’ actions more sustainable in the long run. These initiatives also offered local leaders (women of afro- and indigenous-descent) and their network greater visibility and access to resources to defend their rights, lands, and cultures.

Opportunities to exchange experiences and ideas within and between communities highlighted the strategies and tools that these groups bring to live more sustainable lives, while defending their ethnic identities and traditional knowledge. This was highlighted at the Festival Quilombo de Catucá. The organisation of the event strengthened the group internally and built their position as a key actor in their community.

When floods hit Pernambuco in May 2022, the deadliest in 50 years in the region, both projects supported by GRRIPP played a key role as first aid rescuers for the local communities. The group of the Quilombo were able to offer shelter and food to 15 people, using their newly-expanded space to cook and distribute food. The group Cosmonucleação organised fundraising, distributed food baskets and blankets, and mobilised their network to share information on the situation.

Overall, initiatives conducted in Brazil generated insights that contribute to global knowledge on the role of women-led grassroot organisations for the sustainable development of remote areas.

Learn more about the GRRIPP project - Gender Responsive Resilience | GRRIPP

Gender Responsive Resilience and Intersectionality in Policy and Practice (GRRIPP) – Networking Plus Partnering for Resilience

Project Lead: Professor Maureen Fordham, University College London, UK

Regional Project Lead: Professor Pablo Vega Centeno Sara Lafosse, Catholic University of Peru, Peru

Delivery Partners: Economic and Social Research Council part of UK Research and Innovation and Coletivo Chã de Terra, Quilombo do Catucá

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