The Life of Maria


“My name is Maria, I am 17 years old. I live with my grandmother, my uncle, my mother, my dad and my cousin. I am from Codó, also known as the land of Umbanda (Brazilian religion that incorporates aspects from Christianity and various African religions), a small city in the countryside of Maranhão. It is not a very well-developed city; some neighborhoods don’t have access to water. Most of the population is of African descent. I like to draw, and my favorite school subjects are mathematics and history.”


This is a glimpse into the life of a young woman who is part of a project called La League in the Northeast of Brazil. La League, also known as leaders of change, is an international initiative for women empowerment. It is especially strong here in the Netherlands, where a group of girls got together to play soccer and gather funds for projects worldwide that use Sports as a way to empower young women. A pilot project using this methodology is being implemented in Brazil and Nicaragua by PLAN international[1], an organisation that fights for children’s rights and gender equality. I had the opportunity to talk to one of the participants of the project in Brazil and would like to share that reality with the EUC community. This peek into someone else’s life was a very welcome reminder for me to get out of the Eurocentric bubble I live in currently and consider the world as a whole, with all its diversity and challenges; I hope it can do the same for you.[2]


What does a typical day in your life look like?

I wake up early in the morning do my school activities, such as homework. I help my mom out around the house and at 12:30 I shower and then I’m off to school. When I come back I still help my mom out a little more and then I go watch my soap-operas.


Did your day-to-day life change after you started being involved in the PLAN projects?

I go to the project once a week and stay there from 8:30 until 11. It did, because before I participated in the project I didn’t have many opportunities and now I do. It also changed a lot the way I am; now I’m more assertive


What does PLAN represent to you?

For me Plan is everything. It is a source of identity. Somewhere I can be confident, brave and where I can learn more.


The name of the project is leaders of change, right? What does it mean to you to be a leader of change?

To me, the project is where I learn. Being a leader of change is teaching the girls that will participate in the project in the future what I’ve learned and being an example for them.


Do you think your gender affects the way you live your life?

It does, because before I entered the project I participated in physical education class in school and there the boys told me I couldn’t play with them because I was a girl. In the project it was different because boys and girls had the same rights. The interaction between boys and girls in the project is nice because the boys respect the girls and we respect them too.


Tell me one person you admire and why?

My mom, because she supports me in everything; activities, projects even in the courses I take. She always supports me.


Do you think the life you have today is different from the life your mother had when she was your age?

Yes, she didn’t have many opportunities like I do today. She didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the projects. She also stopped studying because she got pregnant very young, so she didn’t really have the opportunity to study.


What’s a dream you have?

My dream is to graduate, become a lawyer and be able to help my family. In the future I want to help people who need it. One of my dreams in to build a homeless shelter.


What would you like to say to your younger self?

I would tell her to participate in all projects and to be confident.


[1] https://plan-international.org

[2] The dialogues have been translated from Portuguese to English by me in my best effort to keep it as close to the original as possible.

Image source:

Praça São Sebastian. Retrieved 05.12.19 from Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Codó,+MA,+65400-000,+Brasil/@-4.4615725,-43.8875847,3a,75y,171.15h,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipO_34FrtYppGsSTtpacYoT65oY_SOPqGeSvBKTR!2e10!3e12!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipO_34FrtYppGsSTtpacYoT65oY_SOPqGeSvBKTR%3Dw203-h114-k-no!7i2560!8i1440!4m5!3m4!1s0x78bf16cf1e200a1:0x41ecdc5fb99aae3!8m2!3d-4.4605557!4d-43.88945