Project runs care and knowledge circles for women in Petrolina

Supported by CESE’s Small Projects Programme, the initiative of the Anglican Association of the Northeast (Associação Anglicana do Nordeste) and Solidarity Hands Petrolina (Mãos Solidárias Petrolina) serves low-income women.

Women from Petrolina have benefitted from a series of professional and practical training sessions in self-care, through Care and Knowledge Circles held at the Grassroots Training Centre, an initiative of the Anglican Association of the Northeast and Solidarity Hands Petrolina, supported by CESE’s Small Projects Programme. In 2022, approximately 80 people were trained by the centre, mostly women.

The Solidarity Hands Petrolina project works with mothers experiencing social vulnerability and demonstrating strong signs of impoverishment, most of whom are low-skilled, black women from the city peripheries, who have school-age children. “Many of the women survive from odd jobs, as recycled waste pickers, or in temporary fruit picking. They live in precarious housing, in shacks in informal settlements, in unhealthy conditions.  Others rent,” explained Juzileide Carvalho do Nascimento, member of the Centre’s board.

Working in the Solidarity Hands Petrolina building, the Grassroots Community Training Centre started at the beginning of 2021.  Right at the beginning, they surveyed female Food Bank beneficiaries and ran an active listening exercise to better understand the women’s principal needs, desires and dreams.  According to the project mobilizer, “the women indicated that their main needs were access to nutritional food in good quantities, decent housing, formal work and support to work as sole traders, as well as access to justice.”

The first Care and Knowledge Circles grew out of this work. Since 2021, they have taken place weekly, on Thursday afternoons, with an average attendance of 20 women per activity.  Partnership with CESE enabled them to mobilize more women for the 2022 training cycle.

“Partnership with CESE has allowed us to approach other partners, because, as the activities were publicized, other people and institutions proposed to support us at Solidarity Hands Petrolina,” Juzileide explained.  Institutions that were already working saw the need to maintain their social commitment to the beneficiary families and focus on continuity of work. “One great example is the Federal Institute of the Semi-Arid Region in Pernambuco (Instituto Federal do Sertão Pernambucano: IF-SERTÃO), a teaching institute that has carried on providing training in music initiation for the daughters of project participants,” she noted.

TRAINING – Professional training content is shared in the circles, to develop the women themselves and their community self-organization. “The training activities alternate between practical workshops and circle talks on aligned themes.  We understand that for professional learning to take place it is necessary for the women to feel empowered in other aspects. In this sense, the activities contribute to practical learning and self-care,” Juzileide added.  In her opinion, it is noticeable that the activities contribute to self-esteem, improved interpersonal relationships and self-confidence, “during the process, the women discover new cooking skills and an interest in bakery and confectionery.”

The Bakery and Confectionery training is worth noting. “The greatest result was the learning between each other.  Some women began to employ this at home, producing bread and cakes.  Others are dedicating themselves to collective work in the Solidarity Hands kitchen.  The ones doing the collective work are learning about how to deal with consumers, how to manage finances. This was one of the greatest project advances,” she confirmed.

Maria Aparecida Mendes Feitosa is 32 years old and has participated in the Bakery and Confectionery training. She says that she “had never done anything like this cooking before and had no experience of cakes, sweets or savouries.  The course provided something new, very different.  For me, what I liked most was learning and putting it into practice.” For her, the circles opened up the possibility of discovery and experimentation.  “What I learnt in the course were things that you can do at home; to invest and earn a bit of money and have some income, making the products, the snacks that we learnt on the course. I can only thank them, because it was a fantastic experience,” she concluded.  During the sessions, she and other women were trained in how to produce and sell food, promoting financial autonomy for the women (domestic budgeting, basic guidance in administration and finance, etc.).

From the perspective of Personal Growth and Collective Self-organization for Mutual Care, the activities prepared the women to become leaders in their streets and neighbourhoods to promote female citizenship.  Here, the focus is on guaranteeing women’s rights and constructing a local network to combat family and community violence against women and children.

The women also participated in Circles to Encourage Reading and Research: to cultivate pleasure in reading literature and scientific investigation in children and adolescents in the community, promoting the circulation of knowledge to raise awareness, literacy and the importance of staying in school.

Professionals who work voluntarily at the Centre come from the areas of Health, Psychology, Yoga, Dance, Literacy, Social Work, Law, Marketing, Bakery, and Savoury and Sweet Production, and this enabled them to start their work with the public.