The strength to fight for the rights and lives of black women lies in the actions and in the essence of the name Bamidelê. This non-governmental organisation was founded in 2001. It sprang from the coming together of different black women working in several fields of society – ranging from community groups to the university and active in different social movements. So, it required a name that would describe their aspirations.
The name Bamidelê (ba/mid/i/lay) has African roots and means Hope or something like ´To Be Hopeful´. “For these women it has an even greater meaning. It means to stand up, pursue, build and not give up. The name was chosen because it transmits the spirit of these women activists who are always on the move, seeking new victories”, explained Terlúcia Silva, the project coordinator at Bamidelê – Paraíba Black Women´s Organisation.
During its 20 years, the organisation has worked in different fields to combat racial and gender prejudice. It has received support from Brazil Fund for its actions to guarantee the rights of black women, since its foundation, for example through the programme Tackling Racism at the Grassroots Level: Strengthening Institutions and Mobilising to Defend Rights, that was set up to foster movements that work for racial equality and justice.
The organisation runs training and educational programmes with the central issue of affirmation of black identity as one of its most important fields. They run courses, seminars, campaigns, workshops, health fairs, training courses, conversation circles, and also produce teaching material on the themes of health (sexual, reproductive and of the black community), education, sexual rights, human rights and affirmative actions throughout the whole of the state of Paraíba.
“We stick to this focus because we believe people are capable of great things when they understand who they are. Great strides can be made after these discoveries”, the coordinator explains.
The public who participate in their actions are young, black, teenage women from communities, movements and schools in urban and rural Paraíba. Of particular note is the community of the Quilombo Caiana dos Crioulos, in Alagoa Grande.
In the Quilombola Communities
The Black Women´s Organization of Caiana (OMNC) is located in the quilombola community of Alagoa Grande, in Paraíba. The work carried out by this group centres around empowering black women, the deconstruction of racism as well as healthcare for this community. They receive Bamidelê courses and training in order to put their work into action. According to Luciene Tavares, a member of the OMNC, this assistance from João Pessoa has helped the quilombola women to see their own worth.
“I have seen women, some of whom were older women, say they have lost their fear of standing up for themselves, saying what they feel, irrespective of where they are. Their self-esteem has been renewed and with the strength to do so much more for themselves and for their daughters, the women of their community”, Terlúcia told us.
Luciene also believes that Bamidelê “helps the women to create support mechanisms among themselves. We are more united as a community, thinking about the problems that affect us and how we can solve them together. While always believing we can do more”.
Bamidelê combatting violence against women
In the Marcos Moura community, in the town of Santa Rita, Bamidelê´s support of the Marcos Moura Black Women´s Group served to provide information following high rates of violence against women in the region.
“We have set up an informal group of 40 women to provide psychological support, lawyers (in some cases), social assistance and to accompany the women in court hearings so they do not feel unsupported and can restart their lives. We have shown them where to go to seek their rights, how to fight for them and how to free themselves from violence”, explained Verônica Lopes, a member of the women´s group, who also once needed support to overcome violence she was facing in a former relationship.
“I was one of the women who needed shelter and did not know where to start or who to turn to. I was suffering violence and threats from my ex-husband. But I managed to overcome the situation and rebuild my life and this is what we want for other women”, said Verônica.
Bamidelê addressing the pandemic
Bearing in mind that the situation of black and quilombola women has always been precarious, the pandemic saw the failure of public authorities in the case of these communities and populations.
According to Terlúcia, in Paraíba, black women have been badly affected. Many women were working in the informal sector before the pandemic and many lost their jobs during this period. “The difficulties imposed by the pandemic range from lack of basic protective equipment against coronavirus, to lack of food. Hunger is rife in the communities, as is unemployment and lack of access to the health service”, said one activist.
Part of the support made available by Brazil Fund to Bamidelê – Paraíba Black Women´s Organisation was put towards handling the emergencies faced by these women and their families. They bought items like staple food, hand sanitiser and personal hygiene products.
“Brazil Fund´s support has been essential in maintaining our organisation. We have already been supported by the Fund in the past, but beyond the projects we see you as a historic supporter of our political activities. Many times, in these 20 years of experience we have been able to count on you. Bamidelê owes its struggle and victories over the years to Brazil Fund who have always trusted in the potential of our organisation”, Terlúcia Silva concludes.