Raimunda Gomes da Silva (1944), ‘dona Raimunda do Coco’ (lady Raimunda of the Coconut), is respected for her leadership in the fight for the rights of female peasants and environment protection. Presently, she coordinates the Secretariat of the Rural Extractivist Woman, which gives courses about gender on politics and income-generating activities. Raimunda emphasizes the importance of babaçu (type of coconut) extractivism. She has been facing large landowners since the 1980s, when she began community work in Tocantins countryside.
Abandoned by her husband, with six young children to care for, Raimunda Gomes da Silva had survived working hard on another people's land, in the countryside of Maranhão, where she was born. On Sundays, a day of rest, she tried to find comfort in community meetings of the Pastoral of the Land, a progressist wing of the Catholic Church. There, she realized that many female peasants were discriminated at home and at work. “I used to see the suffering of poor and illiterate women: single and married women, their sons and daughters, kids abandoned by their father.” Her spirit of leadership, that would make her known allover Brazil, was awakening. In 1979, she moved to Sete Barracas, in the North of Tocantins, where her brother had some land. 52 families lived there, threatened by squatters. Supported by the Pastoral of the Land, Raimunda founded the Union of Rural Workers. In spite of the distance between the communities, she gathered 552 members. “In 1985, we were evicted from our land by police officials. We had no food or place to live.” With the Union's help they were able to recover the land. However, the conflict escalated. One year later, catholic priest Josimo Tavares, an important ally of the rural workers, was murdered. Raimunda traveled to many cities to denounce the crime. She went back home as a well known figure allover the country. Even facing threats, she kept on fighting. In 1988, she participated in the creation of the Peasant Federation of Tocantins. She gathered women and founded, in 1992, an association of coconut breakers aiming to improve the productivity of the extractivism and handicraft. In 1995, Raimunda became the coordinator of the Secretariat of the Rural Extractivist Woman, which gives assistance to about 8000 women from eight Amazonic States.
Conselho Nacional dos Seringueiros (CNS)