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Empowering: It is the girl's choice

Empowered girls and women / Luzitânia Silva

WRITING TO RESIST

Luzitânia Silva was born in 1989, the same year her city was founded. Presidente Tancredo Neves, which until then was a town belonging to the municipality of Valença, would be irremediably linked to the girl's fate. “Since then, it is a story of love and hate with this city that is my age”, reflects the public servant and writer. The small and modest municipality has historical legacies and flaws that Luzitânia, unfortunately, experienced herself.

“From a young age, I saw and experienced domestic violence. In my family, in my neighborhood. Everything is changing little by little, but here there is still a hint of coronelismo [oppression by rural oligarchs of the Northeastern region of Brazil] and male chauvinism. They are women who marry too soon, who become pregnant early, whose husbands who do not allow their wives to work,” she explains. Luzitânia needed to find a way to express herself in this regard. And the way she found it was by writing.

However, even today, at the age of 31, she finds it difficult to describe the events that marked her childhood, or the assault suffered in the middle of the street ten years ago. Soon comes the memory of a torn dress, high-heeled shoes carried in the hand (to run faster). Luzitânia still fears all the violence that deviated her trajectory towards the fight. With a low, choked voice, she avoids pointing out the culprits. "I started to make up stories so that mine would hurt less," she explains. Writing has brought relief.

She soon realized that encouraging other women and girls to write their own stories, as difficult as it seemed, was also a way to help them overcome their traumas. Her project included in the response to the Ela Decide Call for Projects, supported by the United Nations Population Fund in partnership with the Elas Fund, provided, among conversation rounds with teenagers, a creative writing workshop. There, she remembers, a whole world of voices opened up.

“You need to be prepared. Sometimes it's like an open wound. It heals little by little.”

Many girls preferred to write, like herself, fictional stories that reminded them of their own lives. "The truth is that there is a fine line between reality and fiction," she says. Stories emerged of women who got married at age 12, of women who suffered various forms of violence and threats, others who were forbidden to see their own children. Everything became poetry and, if it didn't disappear, at least it really started to hurt less.

Luzitânia is proud of the project and continues to work to promote women's rights (and to write). “We realized how difficult it is for women who suffer so much with their problems, with poverty, to talk about it. With the project, we saved lives”, she celebrates. As for her own stories, the ones she still needs to write, she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to put them down on paper. But everything is fine, as she says to her students: “You need to be prepared. Sometimes it's like an open wound. It heals little by little.”

Empowering: It is the girl's choice

Location: Presidente Tancredo Neves/BA

People directly benefited by the project: 1,691 women.

Empowering: The choice is on the girl”, carried out by the collective named Empowered Girls and Women, has developed training actions aimed at teenagers on the right to female sexual and reproductive health. The methodology adopted included workshops in integrated education in sexuality and creative writing, lectures and rounds of conversations, stimulating female empowerment. It has established and strengthened relationships with numerous organizations, including educational institutions.

Photography: Mila Souza / Writer: Fabiane Guimarães e Rachel Quintiliano / Editor-in-chief: Rachel Quintiliano / Content review and approach: Anna Cunha, Juliana Soares and Michele Dantas / Artwork and Composition: Diego Soares

This story is part of the publication “Driving Force: stories and actions undertaken by women and for women in Bahia”, that shows the result of a partnership between the United Nations Population Fund and the Elas Fund to support projects led by women residing in the Brazilian State of Bahia, who work to promote actions involving training and information on sexual, reproductive health and rights. To learn more about the project and other stories, visit brazil.unfpa.org/forcamotriz