Women from grassroots organizations in the Northeast discuss strategies to mobilise support in CESE-promoted course


Between 28 June and 1 July, the first stage of the Mobilising Support Course was held with the Community of Practice, as part of the Giving for Change Programme. Twenty-six women participated in the course, mostly from the Northeast region, including women with disabilities, black, activist, quilombola and indigenous women, female peasant workers, fisherwomen, female babassu coconut breakers and mangaba pickers, young women, female communicators, evangelicals, women from African-origin worship houses and LGBTQIA+ women, who, every day, lead the fight for the defence of rights and democracy in Brazil.  Run by CESE, in partnership with the Association of Lawyers for Rural Workers in the State of Bahia (Associação de Advogados/as de Trabalhadores/as Rurais: ATTR), the course uses the “Change the Game” methodology; a programme of online and in-person courses run in 12 countries to strengthen organizational capacity in local fundraising and mobilising support.

Over four days, the participants, who represented 14 women’s organizations, discussed strategies to strengthen their activities and set out on a journey of mobilising support, with activities throughout 2022, monitored by CESE.  One course highlight was the diversity of movements and the ecumenical diversity. Participants were challenged to bring to the meeting their dreams and aspirations for the social transformation of their territories and movements, and some of the shared key words were: freedom, diversity, equality and recognizing intersectionality.

According to Viviane Hermida, CESE Projects and Training Advisor, structural problems and their profound cultural roots are reflected in a political situation that is worrying for these women, aggravated by the high acquisition of weapons, which has coincided with high rates of femicide, massacres, executions and domestic accidents involving weapons: “Women’s groups remain outside arenas for discussion and funding, silenced in the policy arenas, which is why they are demanding more support, so that they can acquire better tools for the struggle, at this time of huge challenges.”


Training for transformation – discussions touched on the political situation, developing strategies, reflections about international cooperation, an analysis of problems and tactical solutions, legal aspects and the inclusion of communication mobilisation messages and activities, as well as considerations for monitoring and indicators, action planning and evaluation. The themes of gender, race and reflections about the impact of and exclusions caused by ableism ran through the training, both in the discussion arenas and in learning during interactions, all of which led to participant discoveries.  The presence of blind women required the whole group to mobilise to express themselves in ways that ensured that, with the help of audio description, all the participants could see the materials and recognize each other.


Indigenous women talked a great deal about how racism affects their lives and creates insecurity in their territories: “They put up signs in our territories prohibiting indigenous people, they talk openly about running us out with bullets. They dismantle our protection structures, and racism just carries on violating the populations in the countryside, in our village communities,” declared Elisa Urbano Ramos, Indigenous Women’s representative of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo (Articulação dos Povos e Organizações Indígenas do Povos e Organizações Indígenas do Nordeste, Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo: APOINME).


For Priscila Xavier Lima, from the Pataxó Hã Hã Hãe and Tupinambá peoples of Bahia, police violence has left marks on her own body. “I was characterized as an indigenous women and brutally attacked by police officers, simply because I and my companion asked permission to pass. Today we have to report violations using photographs and videos.  If third parties hadn’t recorded this, I might not be here.”


Haldaci Regina, from the Northeast Black Women’s Network (Rede de Mulheres Negras do Nordeste), stressed that the current times demand a great deal from black women caught up in very different struggles: emergency aid to combat hunger, struggles for housing, the fight for the right to life, struggles for public transport, the defence of traditional territories and for decent living conditions in the big cities.  But in discussions about the autonomy of women’s own bodies, loneliness and the lack of support are significant. “Women are present in all the struggles but invisible in all the arenas.  Silenced in all the struggles,” she declared.


The Communication of Causes and Mobilising Support – worrying times, with the dissemination of fake news and disinformation, in addition to the criminalization of the social movements, were also addressed during the training, with discussions about the right to communications as a counterpoint to the hegemonic context and the fact that the media is concentrated in the hands of very few families and powerful groups.  Moreover, the participants also reflected on the extent to which the dispute over narratives and communications are strategic aspects for their groups’ political actions and social transformations.  According to Vanessa Pugliese, CESE Projects and Training Advisor, communications to mobilise support require the ability to ask specific questions that can mobilize the public to your cause.  “It is also necessary to provide data and have an explicit message about the movement’s position.”


“The training helped us to renew our work and our knowledge about mobilising support, emphasizing the importance of planning and systematization for political action. But it is also valuable to experience all this in a context of so much care, affection and grace in the details, in the way the CESE team acted in these meetings,” said Duvarlina Rodrigues Silva, from the Northeast Black Women’s Network.


After such a long time with no in-person meetings or exchange of experiences with people from different contexts, Denise Ribeiro, member of the Marielles Forum, admitted how much she had missed these kinds of meetings: “we have needed in-person meetings like this, ones that allow us to explore these conversations, to plan initiatives with more interaction, both within and outside the classroom.”


“CESE’s partnership with the Brazilian Movement of Blind and Low Vision Women (Movimento Brasileiro de Mulheres Cegas e com Baixa Visão: MBMCV) is an invaluable support for women with disabilities, because we are not remembered in political training arenas.  It is no longer possible to construct social transformations without including disabled people,” noted Kelly Nascimento de Araújo, MBMCV representative, describing how the CESE arena is accessible to disabled people.


Maria Rita Rosa dos Santos, from the Peasant Women’s Movement (Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas: MMC), described another discovery she made during the course: “Over these days, I have learnt that we need to study our adversaries – very hard – to really undertake preventative action.  Our adversaries study us, they know us and learn from our actions.”


On their return to their organizations, course participants have put together a mobilising support plan based on the context identified during the meeting, focused on their local reality and the movements with which they are connected.  In online mentoring meetings with the CESE team after the course, the participants talked about their action plan and strategies, thereby initiating  a mobilising support cycle – which will also involve communications activities, as identified by each organization.


According to CESE’s Executive Director, Sônia Mota, the meeting enhanced the women’s movements’ action strategies and renewed bonds of cooperation and exchange between participants. “For organizations committed to social transformation, it is important to realise that we can join hands in all the struggles.  And at this moment, it is our faith that drives us, we stand together to make the necessary changes,” she declared. The second stage of the course will take place online between 19 and 21 June.


About the Giving for Change Programme


In 2021, CESE set out on a five-year journey with the Giving for Change Programme, supported by the Dutch cooperation agency Wilde Ganzen, through the Ministry of External Affairs.  The international programme involves eight countries from the global south: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Palestine and Uganda.


One of the initiative’s aims is to support the adoption of more equitable practices in the international development system, including those based on national fundraising ideas and community philanthropy.  For CESE, the focus will be on strengthening and collective learning between organizations from the Northeast women’s movement.


The programme will last five years (2021 to 2025) and involve a series of activities: Support to Projects; Training in Mobilising Support, Communications and Fundraising; Thematic Meetings about Sustainability, Communications, Strategy, Mobilising Political and Legal Support; Strategic Dialogue with the Universities and the Public Authorities; Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Systematization.