Note from BW of Brazil: In the last few decades, we’ve seen black Brazilian women assume posts and responsibilities that would have seemed impossible even as recently as the 1990s. This is not to over-estimate the progress that has been made; in Brazil, the image of the black woman is generally still associated with domestic work, the kitchen and Carnaval. The very fact that we still have to celebrate titles such as the “first black woman” to do anything shows that there is still a LLOONNGG ways to go before this parcel of the population is fairly represented in accordance with their representation in the Brazilian population, as well as in the minds of everyday Brazilians. No matter, we’ll keep presenting these achievements as long as they keep coming!
Woman, black and feminist: Meet the new vice president of UNE
Woman, young, Northeastern, black and a feminist. This is Moara Correa Saboia, 25, a native of Recife, Pernambuco, affirmative action student of Civil Engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and the new União Nacional dos Estudantes (National Student Union) vice-president.
Engaged since adolescence in feminist collectives and the Movimento Negro (black movement), her experience has boosted her presence in the student movement. Her first activity was the Encontro de Mulheres Estudantes (EME or Meeting of Women Students) and then the Encontro de Negras e Negros da UNE (ENUNE or Meeting of Black Men and Women of UNE) in 2013.
“That’s when I saw that the student movement was related to my life beyond the university, it gave me motives and from there I started my militancy,” says Moara.
She then was elected general secretary of the União Estadual dos Estudantes de Minas Gerais (UEE-MG or State Union of Students of Minas Gerais), a position she held in the last two years before being elected vice president of the 54th Congress of the UNE, which took place between June 3rd and 7th in Goiânia, Goias.
Moara talks still about the Ocupe Brasília (Occupy Brasília) movement, which from the beginning of June has been protesting against cuts in education, fiscal adjustment and the reduction of legal age of criminal responsibility.
Learn a little more about our vice-president and everything that she’s planning for their next two years as a representative of thousands of students from all over Brazil.
YOU SPENT YOUR CHILDREN ON RECIFE?
I left Recife very young. My parents were born in the southeast and went to Pernambuco for economic reasons. As the Northeast didn’t have the development of today, they decided to return to Minas Gerais.
IN WHICH CITY IN MINAS GERAIS DO YOU LIVE?
I live in Contagem.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE STUDENT MOVEMENT?
What brought me to the student movement were the specific struggles: the debate on women and to combat racism. The first activity I went to was the Meeting of Women Students (EME) and then the meeting of Black Men and Women of UNE (ENUNE). That’s when I saw that the student movement was related to my life beyond the university, it gave me motives and from that I began my militancy in Kizomba. Then I realized that the fight that lies in this space was connected to my life.
AND WHEN WAS THIS?
It was only two years ago.
AND HOW HAS THAT PERIOD BEEN?
I’ve learned a lot. I had a lot of prejudice with the student movement. Sometimes, what comes to us from the base is much more dispute than what the student movement constructs. Participating in the EME was fundamental because it was an area in that hadn’t ben disputed, only policy construction. The ENUNE was the same thing. And when I came in my first Conune, it was the 53rd Congress of the UNE, I was amazed, I fell in love with ten thousand young people who came here to make noise to scream and dispute the best proposal and the direction of the country.
DID YOU IMAGINE THAT, TWO YEARS LATER, YOU WOULD BECOME THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF UNE?
No way. My trajectory was very quick. I went in and I went to the executive office of UEE-MG, much because as I already had an accumulation of social movement.
WHERE WERE YOU AN ACTIVIST BEFORE?
I was a national representative of the Fórum Nacional da Juventude Negra (National Black Youth Forum). I, since I was very young, around the age of fifteen, enjoyed being a militant in the spaces of struggle. The student movement came a little later in my fight. My trajectory in it was also quick because of understanding the reality that it proposed, to mobilize the university, the empowerment of women and blacks.
WHAT DO YOU INTEND TO DO AS VICE PRESIDENT OF UNE?
Two things are essential for me. The first is to understand the current situation. The UNE has advanced greatly over the past decade. In the last two it took a big leap. The last board of UNE was the one that won 10% of PIB (GDP) for education and 50% of the pre-salt (1) social fund. It was the one that popularized the access to university and transformed the working class into a student class. Now, we live in a time of crisis, and we understand that it should not be the student, the worker’s son, who should pay this bill. We radicalize the fight against all regression and against all conservatism. In addition, as a result of the June 2013 demonstrations, the UNE has to understand the new forms of organization of youth. CONEG and Conune are fantastic, but not everyone is able to organize these spaces. Democratizing and rethinking the spaces of UNE is also a very necessary task.
WHAT WOULD A NEW SPACE BE?
The Enune and EME are spaces that don’t take delegates and you only adopt resolutions by consensus. Why not transform these spaces into deliberative spaces? To participate in a CONEG, you need to be organized in an Academic Center or Central Directory of Students, and universities have thousands of other collectives. We have the challenge to bring these new actors, that don’t want to organize themselves into parties or into university entities, within the UNE.
THIS WOULD BE THE FIRST TIME THAT WE HAD A WOMAN IN THE PRESIDENCY AND VICE-PRESIDENCY OF UNE. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS?
It’s a great challenge. There has been much anticipation about this new configuration of the UNE. Carina Vitral [the new president of the entity] and I will be much pressured because of being women. These agendas to combat sexism and racism are central to the student movement. The student movement space doesn’t have to be masculine, it doesn’t have to be aggressive, but a space that can construct solidarity. We have a great challenge to construct a lot of unity to move forward and stop conservatism.
HAS THE NEW MANAGEMENT ALREADY STARTED EVERYTHING, WITH OCCUPY BRASÍLIA. HOW WAS THAT?
It was very important to the management of UNE to start in the struggle of Occupy Brasília, dawning at the Finance Ministry against cuts in education and end the day managing to postpone the vote of the commission for the redução da maioridade penal (reduction of age of criminal responsibility) was important. Already we were faced with these challenges that we will have for the next two years, with an anti-democratic National Congress, which does not respect popular participation, which places its police to verbally and physically assault students. Those first days set the tone of the challenges for the next period.
WHY YOU ARE AGAINST THE REDUCTION OF THE AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY?
Because it doesn’t solve the problem. It criminalizes whoever is the victim of violence in Brazil, not the culprit. We place this in this struggle because we fight for quality education for young people. If this young man is not alive, he will not be able to study. There is a serious public safety problem in Brazil and there is a problem of viewpoint of how security is treated in the country, criminalizing youth. We must strive to change that.
1. The Pre-salt layer is a geological formation on the continental shelves. It is the geological layers that were laid down before a salt layer accumulated above them during the Gondwana breakup. Some of the petroleum that was formed in the pre-salt layer has not leaked upward (see salt dome) to the post-salt layers above. This is especially common off the coast of Africa and Brazil. The amount of oil is not well known but is thought to be a significant fraction of world oil reserves. According to Petrobras, the oil and natural gas lie below an approximately 2000 m deep layer of salt, itself below an approximately 2000 m deep layer of rock under 2000-3000 m of the Atlantic. Drilling through the rock and salt to extract the pre-salt oil and gas is very expensive. Source