• Interview with PAW

    I am Filomena Barreto Ferreira currently Coordinator at “Casa dos Direitos Guiné-Bissau” (the House of Rights in Guinea-Bissau) and President of ATENA Foundation for Child and Woman.
    At an early stage of my life I joined the movement for independence, freedom, justice and social progress of my two countries Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau. I am today 63 years-old and I have not yet given up fighting for the very same causes as of 45 years ago. Life is a long and challenging journey where we, as women, have to, unfortunately, double the efforts compared to men to get at least the same recognition, notably in Africa.


    Generosity, Vision, Faith and Humility:  I was brought up in a very humble Cristian family where the concept of education was underpinned in the principles and values of modesty, love, sharing and brotherhood. To help those that need the most in the recognition of the mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of the difference.

    I was indeed a girl with an open mind, active and eager to learn with and from the others. That education helped me a lot to understand my “meaning of life”, it helped me out to make choices, to support and promote the rights of people, the rights of those that for many reasons are vulnerable. I dedicated my whole life to the promotion of the human Rights. 

    At that time, more than 40 years ago, it was not difficult to us to understand that the only way out of the despair, poverty and hopelessness of our people  would be to migrate and leave behind the starvation and poverty seeking for better opportunities. I remember today the song “Caminho longe pra São Tomé” immortalized by Cesária Évora. This song is a tribute to those that had compulsorily to flee.  

    I started by the theater, which is, by the way, an effective way to pass the messages to influence positively people to change mentalities. Within the theater, I have gradually moved from a more ludic style to a revolutionary and political style.   


    My mother is my role model. Although she became widow very young, she modeled my personality, she taught me to understand the world, to accept the differences and more than anything she taught us the concept of happiness even when we are deprived of basic goods your dignity, your will and your resilience can make us believe that we can make things happen. 
    I learned from my mother that family is the core of a society. The values and principles that you absorb while in a family will guide your actions and behavior within the society for the lifetime. 


    Again, firstly my mother for the above-mentioned reasons. 

    My cousin Diana Lima Handem because of her confidence and encouragement that made me believe in myself and pursue my dreams. Thanks to her I became a restless fighter for the gender equality, for the social justice, for fundamental rights of women.


    Amilcar Cabral the founder leader of the Independence Movement of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde. To him, I trusted the ideals and principles of the liberation movement towards independency, freedom, democracy and progress. He was a fighter for Human Rights until the last day of his life.  With him there was a universal harmony between the domains of the political science, economy, social justice, and culture. 


    To keep fighting for the Rights of Women and children in the three complementary fields: civics rights, socio-cultural and environmental. 
    I have created the ATENA Foundation for Woman and Child to promote and to sponsor actions of gender equality, protection of girls and women rights, capacity building, and educational and economic development in the fields of leadership, science, education, vocational training, international relations and human rights. This will keep me busy in the next five years.


    African women face a number of challenges in various fields especially when it comes to their rights: low level of participation in decision-making processes, discriminatory public policies in the majority of African countries, sexual violence, genital mutilation, entrenched rituals, believes in the society that create huge social barriers to women, etc. There is one sole long term solution for this: Education, education and more education.  Also investing in the female capacity building means less poverty, more competitiveness, decrease childbirth mortality and sexually transmitted diseases contributing towards a more inclusive economic growth.


    By doing some activities like painting on fabric, craft work with felt, which makes me think to unwind in how beautiful and wonderful that is life. I read books, especially novels. 


    Because the African woman has been deprived of their fundamental rights even before birth. Women have been the most discriminated and marginalized even by closest relatives as such their own brothers.

    All this has its roots on cultural, religious and traditional practices. Education, information, and advocacy remains a priority, for the necessary change of mentality.
    It is unacceptable that 25 years after the Beijing Conference, held in China, is still spoken in the lack of access to education, gender inequality, the right to justice, the issue of early marriage, genital mutilation, in general, rights are still precarious. One can wonder why?
    It is urgent a policy change that enables greater participation of women in decision-making, social and cultural economic policies. Efforts are sporadic and do not favour a timely decision. Investment is needed in access to education, especially for rural women.
    Education is the foundation pillar of a modern society, without education there is no development, and, therefore, we cannot aspire to be a modern society.

    As my mother, African women are the drivers of development, the driving force behind the family, but our societies have still failed to recognize their roles and their (our) rights in the family and in society. Policies should also be more agglutinating.


    I would seek for a function that allowed me to promote and support girls' education and rights. Also on the issue of gender equality and development.

    My first advice: If you have difficult decisions to make, think always about your mother, you will find in those memories the advice you need. 
     To encourage girls and young women to a more active participation in the fight for their rights with a special focus on education.   

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