Brasilien: Therezinha de Godoy Zerbini

I am a free spirit. I always thought with my own head.

— Therezinha de Godoy Zerbini

Therezinha Zerbini (1928) is known as “Mrs. Amnesty.” As a lawyer, she founded, organized and diffused the Feminist Movement for the Amnesty, to open the door for the return of democracy. Therezinha got to know the political obstacles, and she never lost the capacity to be frustrated with the authoritarianism.

When she was 17 years old, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time, this disease frightened everyone. To be cured, people were confined in sanatoriums. Therezinha went to one of them. The doctor prohibited her from taking shower. She did not obey his orders. Her second great outrage came in 1964. Her husband, a general, had his political rights taken away because he did not agree with the military coup that introduced the dictatorship. The Army commanded Brazil for more than 20 years. People were arrested, tortured and killed. Therezinha Zerbini, at the time 42 years old and mother of two sons, was also arrested. It was in prison that she had the idea to organize a women movement for the amnesty. “The seed was planted there. But the political situation was so tough that we waited until 1975 to start the movement.” At that moment, there were no parties nor syndicates nor free press in Brazil. “Therefore, we organized the women that knew how to speak from their hearts. Those who speak from the heart do not make mistakes.” Therezinha Zerbini mobilized amnesty nucleus allover the country. Convoked public acts, gave lectures, claimed national peace. Her house received political figures being persecuted: “They were hungry, they ate. They needed to sleep, they slept.” In 1979 came the victory. The amnesty law was signed and opened the doors for the reconstruction of democracy. Today, with 77 years of age, Therezinha is still active. She founded and is the president of an organization that protects water resources, the Open Institute of Redemption of Water. For her, the fight for democracy and for the well being of the environment is only one. “One who defends life and human rights also works for the integrity of the ecosystem.”

Instituto Aberto de Redenção das Águas (Iara)