We are delighted to announce that Maria Lucia Lopes de Oliveira, of IWHC’s Brazilian partner Cunhã Coletivo Feminista, has just won the 2009 Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF) Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life. The prize is awarded annually to honor “creative and courageous women and women’s groups around the world for their contribution in improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.”
In January 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the project that Maria Lucia initiated with rural women in sertão do Cariri, the semi-desert backlands of Brazil’s Paraíba state. Cunhã’s program in Cariri is simply outstanding. It represents a rare example of a comprehensive intervention that takes into account development, rights, environment, and people’s empowerment.
In my visit, I met with around 15 women who were members of a group called “The Winners”. With continuous support from Cunhã, the group has successfully mobilized to bring electricity to the settlement, install a wind mill to pump water, create cheap systems that retain water in dry seasons, keep a vegetables garden for their own consumption, and breed goats whose milk they drink and sell. Participants in the program are very aware of their rights, including those related to health.
With this prize, I hope this experience in Cariri become an inspiration for other groups and Governments worldwide. Congratulations Maria Lucia and Cunhã!
Denise Hirao is the Program Officer for Latin America at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Read her bio here.