Brasilien: Vanete Almeida

Until the end of the 1970s, in the Northeastern hinterland, female agriculturists were used only to work and to take care of children. Today, they are leaderships.

— Vanete Almeida

In the 1980s, Vanete Almeida (1943) began participating in rural workers' unions from the central hinterland of Pernambuco State. As the only woman in a place dominated by men, she broke the sexism barrier and stimulated the mobilization of women in rural areas. Now, there are 800 groups of women in the Northeast. Those women, who used to be quiet, are now directing unions, coordinating meetings and demanding labor rights, health, education and the preservation of the environment.

When Vanete Almeida began the task of making female agriculturists more aware of their rights, they were disrespected, isolated and invisible to society. She used to be the only woman in the union meetings, and so she decided to go look for female partners at their homes. Then, Vanete started to organize workshops. “We used to talk about everything: how to not waste beans or corn, how to take care of chickens, hygiene, health, their children's education and their affectionate and sexual problems.” Vanete's battle began in the 1970s when she joined a Catholic volunteer group involved in political education. “In the plantation fields, I used to see women working really hard from sunrise till sunset. Most of them did not even have identification documents.” In 1980, Vanete started working as a counselor for the Federation of Agriculturists from Pernambuco State. In 1982, the third year of a very long drought, she was ahead of a group that demanded that the Federal Government include women in the emergency fronts–up until then the program only gave jobs to men. Two years later, they organized the First Meeting of Rural Women from the Central Hinterland Area. Now, there are 800 groups of agriculturists in the Northeast. Among other rights, they conquered the right to be the legally recognized land owners–before, only men had the right to own land. They conquered also the right to retirement and to continue receiving their salary during maternity-leave. Now, Vanete Almeida coordinates the Network of Latin American and Caribbean Rural Women, articulating groups from 25 countries. When she is in Brazil, she continues to do what gives her the most pleasure in life: meeting with female agriculturists from her region. “As long as there are people without land and women without an active power of speech, I will be there.”

Rede Latino-Americana e do Caribe das Mulheres Trabalhadoras Rurais (The Network of Latin American and Caribbean Rural Women)