Countries: Brazil

Carla Beatriz De Paulo

Carla Beatriz De Paulo
Civil Servant and Researcher in Social Policy

Carla Beatriz de Paulo holds a Master’s degree in social policy from the University of Brasilia and works for the Brazilian Government since 2011.

Changes, Inequalities and Policymaking in Brazil

What do inequalities look like in different parts of the world, and what can governments, civil servants, and citizens do to eliminate them?

In the second episode of our ‘Inequalities’ mini-series, Carla Beatriz de Paulo – General Coordinator in the Ministry of Social Development in Brazil – tells us about what hides behind the rise of a ‘new middle class’ in her home country, where dependence on State social programs from lower income sectors do not seem to be decreasing.

Touching on racial, gender and social issues, Carla gives us an insight into the needs and limitations that the Brazilian population faces everyday, and tells us how academia and field work can come together to bring about solutions to an unequal playing field.

We spoke with Carla Beatriz de Paulo in Geneva during the conference: Overcoming Inequalities in a Fractured World: Between Elite Power and Social Mobilisation, organised by The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD).

The title of her presentation was:
Brazil’s economic upsurge in the 2000’s : The rise of a “new” middle class or the fragmentation of the working class?
Because of the economic upsurge in the 2000s, part of Brazil’s working class started accessing durable goods and private services that had been historically inaccessible to them. This was interpreted by segments of the government and academia as a shift in class structure, and thus seen as the rise of a “new” middle class in Brazil that was less dependent on public services. This would then allow the state to restrict its role to regulating private services and providing public services to the poorest. This study suggests that interpreting this income shift as the rise of a “new” middle class is not only incorrect, but also potentially harmful to social change, since it incites fragmentation and disengagement within the working class. Alternatively, it argues that those who bene ted from the income shift are a fragment of the working class and far more dependent on state social services than advocates of the new middle class thesis suggest. In order to better understand this phenomenon, this study seeks to investigate the level of access to health and education services of those in this income range. The results obtained through data analysis reveal the predominant use of public health and education services by “new” middle class in 2008 and 2013, respectively.

Find out more about UNRISD here:

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Read the transcript of Carla Beatriz De Paulo's Video here

Carla Beatriz de Paulo: Hi, my name is Carla. Beatriz de Paulo. I’m from Brazil. I’m a researcher and a civil servant.

Nerina: What is your main research focus?

Carla: The dynamics of social classes in Brazil, and how social classes relate with the State and social policies.

Nerina: How did you arrive at this topic?

Carla: Since my undergraduate studies, I was always interested in social policies, on a way to improve the quality of life of the population, and I was also very interested in the dynamics of social classes in Brazil; how the middle class and the working class and the elites behaved throughout our history. In the 2000s, when we had major economic growth in Brazil and there was a debate about the rise of a new middle class, I decided to take a deeper look into this phenomenon, and study how middle classes behaved in our recent history.

Nerina: Here at the conference, you presented the results of your recent studies. Could you tell me about this?

Carla: In 2013, I started my Masters studies at the University of Brasilia, and I decided to study this phenomenon of the new middle class, and what was the level of access that theses people had, should they have an education service, whether public or private, in order to understand if these people where really less dependent on State social policies. I analyzed the data from 2003 to 2013 of the Brazilian National Household survey, to compare and compress the public and private provision of health and education services.

What I concluded was that despite what had been said about the new middle class being able to consume private health and education services, data showed that in fact most of these people where still using health and education services provided by the State.

Nerina: Why is this result relevant?

Carla: When people argued that a segment of the population didn’t need public services anymore because they were now able to buy them in the market, it meant that the State could focus only on the extreme poor, and these people could afford their social services. Research has shown that in fact, these people still largely depend on the State to satisfy their basic needs in health and education.

Nerina: And was this unexpected?

Carla: Since the Constitution of 1998, all Brazilians have the right of health provision, so our health system is universal, so anyone can demand for services and education as well, so the State has the duty to provide primary and secondary education for all social classes.

But throughout our history, middle classes and elite have abandoned public services and decided to pay for private education and health services, so the public services basically attend the working class and the poor people. This is basically how things work, but on the other hand, despite that people usually pay for private health insurance, depending on the case, they also depend on the public health sector, because for high complexity treatments, usually you have to go to the public health centers, because the private sector is unable to provide this kind of treatment.

Brazilians also receive tax exemptions when they declare that they use private health and education services, so in the end, everybody depends somehow on the State to have access to health and education, whether public or private.

Nerina: And what does this result mean for policy making?

Carla: I think it would be important for the government to focus not only in fostering and regulating the private market of health insurances and private education, but in strengthening the provision of public social services, expanding and improving the quality of public education, and also of public health.

Nerina: What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges in this field in Brazil right now? And what would you change if you could?

Carla: I would insist on the provision of universal social services; not only health and education, but also transportation and housing. I would also implement policies to tackle inequality rates, which are very high in Brazil in terms of income and properties, so this is basically what I think we need now.

Nerina: Is there somebody who inspires or inspired you in a special way?

Carla: When I was in University during my undergraduate studies, I had some professors who were also civil servants, and it was a very promising moment in Brazil at that time, in 2007, 2008, and they really inspired me to not only work with research but also try to apply for a public position and to work with policy implementation.

This was really important for me and they made me see how academia and the civil service can really complement each other.

Nerina: Why and how do you think that research and civil public service complement each other?

Carla: At University, in academic debates, if you’re not careful enough you can detach yourself from the real work and how things really happen, and the limits and the constraints of the role and the possibilities of the State, so when you work in the Government, you are aware of all these possibilities and constraints; you become more realistic. On the other hand, if you only work in the civil service, you can become too skeptical and too pragmatic and refrain from seeing a bigger picture and making some important reflections. That’s why I think having both perspectives is very complementing and enriching for both of them.

Nerina: If you could speak with an influential politician, what would you tell her or him?

Carla: I would suggest to this person to take gender and race and social inequalities into consideration while implementing programs, and I would also suggest – or really, warn them – about the importance of communicating with the population in a very transparent and clear way so that people from all social classes are able to understand how the policies that are being implement work and how it can improve their lives and the lives of the collective.

Nerina: In your opinion, is there a need to improve the understanding of the role of the state?

Carla: We have some problem related to that, because usually when public services work, people don’t realize that it has to do with the State, it has to do with the Government, but when they fail, it’s when they realize that it does have to do with the Government. I think it’s important to communicate with the population constantly about what is being done, so that they understand that this is not something that is happening only because of the economy, because of their personal efforts, because otherwise, you can think that your improvement in life is due to your effort and your merit, and I think this can be very harmful for a collective mentality and progressive social changes.

Nerina: What would you tell a recipient of public aid?

Carla: We are in a very difficult moment right now, in my country. We are very concerned about the people, and how their lives are going to be in the future. But I think I would tell these people that they should fight for their right, because they have lots of rights, an they’re probably unaware of their rights and their powers, and they should demand the State provision of public services because we have a highly regressive tax regime in Brazil, so everybody’s funding these services and the people who need them the most should be able to receive them.

Nerina: How personal is what you are doing to you?

Carla: I would say it’s very personal. I think the world is very unfair and these bothers me a lot, and it bothers me even more as a person who should be working for changing this, not only academically but professionally, so all types of inequality bother me a lot. Not only social, but also in Brazil’s case, racial inequalities and gender inequalities as a woman. I think these are my main concerns.

Nerina: What is your perspective about gender and race inequality in Brazil?

Carla: I think gender and race inequalities appear in different forms depending on the country. Brazil, for example, we have a slavery past, so race is a very important issue in our country, but since we never had formal segregation as other countries like the US and South Africa, most people believe we don’t have racism anymore, and we are a mixed population and there is no racism, that there is no open form of racism, but I disagree on this perspective. If you check data about access to the labor market, income, education, health, it’s possible to notice how the black people are underprivileged, and suffer several forms of subtle of racism and discrimination. This is something we have to take into consideration while formulating public policies in Brazil. It’s something very important.

About gender, even though we don’t have, like some countries, some formal mechanisms of discrimination between men and women, sexism is something very common in the Brazilian society and we still have gender gaps in several fields in terms of payment, labor relations, reproductive rights, and it’s also very important to take this into consideration while formulating public policies.

Nerina: We often speak about what developing countries can learn from developed countries, but what could other countries learn from Brazil?

Carla: First, in terms of public policies, over the last decade we had some very successful experiences regarding food security policies, water provision and conditional cash transfers that have be very helpful for developing countries. In terms of a broader view, I think we are, in general, very welcoming and warm, so I think this is something that can be very useful, too.

Nerina: Do you have a dream?

Carla: My dream, which I haven’t achieved yet, is to work on the implementation of a social program in a way that I feel that I’m changing our social reality, because so far, I have done research, I have worked on public policies, but in a very distant way from our reality, and I could see some impact, but something very broad. I would like to work on something more specific and really get in touch with change.

Nerina: Thank you so much for this conversation.

Carla: You’re welcome.

Nerina: Thank you so much for watching, thank you so much for listening, and thank you so much for sharing. Next time, we are going to continue with our mini-series about inequalities. Hope to see you soon again. Bye and ciao.


Carla Beatriz de Paulo holds a Master’s degree in social policy from the University of Brasilia and works for the Brazilian Government since 2011.

Sandra Goulart Almeida

Sandra Goulart Almeida
Professor of Literary Studies

Rector of UFMG, placed in the southeast of Brazil, the most industrialized region of the country. UFMG is a free-of-charge public educational institution, in the oldest university in the state of Minas Gerais.

Women. Readers. Writers. Translators.

“To be a feminist means to have a position in which you believe that you are able to do whatever you want to do without having to tell people that you have the right to”. So speaks Sandra Goulart Almeida, Brazilian professor and president of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, who devotes her work to the research of feminist literature, its history and its parallels in today’s world.

Literature has always been a reflection of our society, so it’s only appropriate that female writers get a long denied focus by intellectuals such as Sandra to better understand matters of cultural identity regarding the role of the woman all over the world, while also zeroing in on the ways that language builds us as members of one great community.

Listen to Sandra shed light on female authors who discuss the identity of women throughout different cultures, as well as how these identities and cultures must be approached and respected through external mediums to preserve and expose its ways of life and thought.

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Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Sandra Goulart Almeida's Video here

Sandra: I’m Sandra Goulart Almeida, I’m a professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, in Brazil. I’m also currently the president of the university.

Nerina Finetto: Thank you, Sandra, for joining me. What are the topics you are interested in?

Sandra: I like to work with comparative literature. I like to see what women are writing about; so mostly I work with contemporary women writers, and I like to see what they are writing from different parts of the world. So that’s what I’m passionate about. So for that reason, I’m also interested in feminist criticism, and also in the notion of cultural translation, since I work with literatures in English, and literatures in Portuguese. I think these are fields that are very exciting for us today; it’s a good time for us to be discussing those issues. There are, I think, in the history of literary studies, it has never been so many women writing.

Sandra: So I’m interested in researching about what women are writing at the moment, what are they interested in.

Nerina Finetto: What are women writing about?

Sandra: That’s an interesting focus. They’re writing about just everything right now. There was a moment in which we could just say that women were writing about their experience as women, you know? They’re writing about taking care of children, about other relations with women, what it is like to live in the private sphere. But now it’s a good, a very interesting time for us, because they’re writing about everything. What I’m mostly interested in, since I work with comparative literature, is how they talk about the notion of space. Especially because I work with women who write in English, but they live, for example, in other countries. So they are part of what is known as contemporary diasporas. So I am interested in that as well, what these women are writing about.

Nerina Finetto: And what are these women writing about?

Sandra: I just published a book on space, women writers and space, the notion of space, diaspora, migration. So I’m doing some research, also, on two aspects of what women writers are talking about. First one is the notion of affect, that a lot of women writers are choosing some affects of emotions to talk about the present moment. But most of them are angered, we have a lot of notion of anger, fear, you have that as well, so I’ve been working with that. And now I’m starting a research on the notion of post-human feminism, that is, women writers, how they’re also writing from others’ perspective. In the effect that believing there’s not a centrality of the human anymore. That are other things that we have to concede when we are discussing our contemporary world.

Nerina Finetto: What kind of things?

Sandra: Some women, I can give an example, Margaret Atwood was a Canadian writer, who’d been writing a lot about that, about how the future is going to be a society in which humans are going to share either physical or psychological, or even the space without animals, but also with machines as well. So the fact of that, we live in a nature that there is no way that we can have the centrality of men, as we understood that, for example in the 19th century or in the previous century, some questioning, showing how women are writing about those topics as well.

Nerina Finetto: Do women write in a different way than men?

Sandra: You could say that, especially in the past we could say that the women, they tend to have a different way of writing, but I think this question doesn’t take us anywhere. The question of sexual difference, I believe that it does more harm than good, because then we start establishing “rules” for how women should write and how men should write. And I think that’s not what I am interested in. I think women are writing regardless of what we say they are writing about. There are a lot of women who are writing about the experience of migrants, as refugees or people who live in transit. It’s something that’s more recent for women to write about; it’s nothing about the private sphere, they’re writing about what it is like to be out there, so I am interested in that. I think asking whether they like different from men, limits the scope of what they can do.

Nerina Finetto: This means that actually we do not need these categories, ‘men’ and ‘women’ writers.

Sandra: No. Yeah.

Nerina Finetto: But at the same time, you tell me that you are interested in female literature. You do not say “I am interested in literature”. Why?

Sandra: For historical reasons. Traditionally, there are more men writers, it has always been easier for men to publish. Being a writer was something that men were, not women in the 18th century. Women started really publishing extensively in the 19th century, over all. So the area of literature, of writing, is traditionally dominated by men, so I think there are two different things here; one, it’s the historical conditioning of women as writers. Either they were silenced for many years, or they were published and nobody knew about them, or because they were not writing because the social and political and economic conditions were not favorable for them. And now we are in a very good time in history, and we could say that the conditions are better for women to write, and they are writing. So I am interested in what they have to say, there is still some kind of prejudice against women as writers, or in all professions in general, so I think it’s a political position, you know, giving visibility to what they write, how they write, what they discuss. Many of them talk about their conditions as women, many of them discuss issues related to the body, you know. So there are some things each day they talk about, and that you don’t usually find in writings by men.

Sandra: But again, it does not mean that they have to write about this. My position as a literary critic is not to set up the standards for them to write according to those standards, but rather to see what they are doing, to examine what is behind the kind of narrative that they are constructing.

Nerina Finetto: Is there a writer who you admire and would like people to know more about? And why?

Sandra: There are many writers I am interested in, as I said I work with literatures in English, and also in the context of Brazil and literature. There is a Nigerian writer who’s been very well-known, and I like her work because of the political position that she stands for. Her name is Chimamanda Adichie. Not only does she write novels, short stories, but also she gives lectures and then they turn into essays. You can find them in the internet. For example, she has a very interesting lecture that she gave about the danger of a single story, so this is available for whoever wants to listen to in the internet. And she also gave another lecture about We Should All be Feminists, that’s the title. And that was turned into a booklet about showing her belief that men and women should all be feminists, so there is a position that we have to take in relation to society. And recently she has published another one about how to raise a daughter as a feminist. So I like the fact that she is a writer; she writes fiction, very very interesting fiction, she talks about several important issues for women, but also for humankind in general. But she also has a theoretical thinking about her position as a writer. And I like that. I think it’s inspiring, the kind of work that she’s doing.
Chimamanda: So that to create a single story. Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become. It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There’s a word, an [inaudible 00:08:45] word, that I think about whenever I think about the past structures of the world. And it is “nkali”; it’s a noun that loosely translates to ‘to be greater than another’. Like economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability, not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person.

Nerina Finetto: I really like The Danger of a Single Story and I really like her message and theoretical position. And probably the richness that we can have through different narratives is also one of your main topics, right?

Sandra: So there’s something that I am interested in, these women writers are telling a different story. A story that we have never heard before. There is also a Brazilian writer whom I like very much, who’s called Conceição Evaristo. She’s a black writer, and she talks about her experience, you know. She comes from a very poor family, in a country that has a tradition of racism, so she talks about her experience as a black woman in Brazil, and she talks about several other narratives that we usually do not encounter on an everyday basis on the literatures of the country. You come across that occasionally, but not that often. So I think this is a very important issue, to have these writers tell stories that we’re usually not familiar with, that we have not heard before. For example, Adichie, she tells this story of the Biafran War, which was a tragedy in terms of history. She tells that from her perspective, from the perspective of women, from the perspective of a poor boy, in the story. So she gives us the possibility of looking through literature, looking at histories. She and Evaristo also do that.

Sandra: I remember that story from when I was a child, I remember the pictures of the children in Biafra dying because of hunger, but I didn’t know the context. So I just read her novel, and it’s very good. I do recommend Half of a Yellow Sun.

Nerina Finetto: I mentioned you are not only writing and teaching about women’s literature, but you are also a role model for young women because of your position at the university. How do you see it?

Sandra: I think more than being a woman in the university, I think there’s still many women who teach at my university, but they’re not as many women who address the issue of women writers, of gender studies, or feminist criticism, they’re not as many. So, of course, I’ve been doing that for the past 20 years. And I usually say that my role is to teach the younger generation, you know? And I’ve noticed a change. I think the women nowadays are more interested in the subjects. Whenever I teach a course, I have many people wanting to take a course with me because they are interested in what I have to say regarding gender studies, about literature written by women, about feminist literary criticism. So I think it’s my role; my position as a professor, as a teacher, it’s really to teach the younger generation, who in turn will teach younger generations too. So I usually tell them “we have a task, a role to play in teaching them, even in the most basic level.” For example, to watch a film, and be able to criticize the way that women are portrayed in the films, to see an advertisement and see how sexist or how racist that advertisement is, beyond the study of literature. I think it’s an everyday practice.

Nerina Finetto: What is the lesson that your students have to learn, if there is such a thing as one lesson?

Sandra: To be critical. They have to be critical. They should never take anything for granted, no discourse for granted, no news for granted, no narrative for granted. They do have to be critical about what they are reading; to be able to stand and say “What is behind this? What is discussed here?”. So I usually try to tell them that they do have to be critical, they have to have a critical position regarding either the object of study, or anything that they’re reading or they’re watching.

Nerina Finetto: And what is the most important lesson that you have learned from your research?

Sandra: Maybe that’s exactly the same lesson that I have learned. That there are many stories being told, that we have to know those stories to start with, we have to know about what other women are writing about, and we do have to be critical about what we read in general. Not only about what women are writing, but what we read on an everyday basis.

Nerina Finetto: Was there a turning point in your life that determined who you are now?

Sandra: I think I’ve always been like that, I think I’ve always been interested in the topic, maybe because of the way that I was raised. I had a very interesting grandmother. I am of Lebanese descend, so she had a very difficult life in the sense that she was not allowed to study, she was not allowed to do what she wanted to do as a woman. She was a musician, but she wasn’t at the time, she had to get married, to have children, so she didn’t… so she gave me a lot of support, because I always was very much interested in doing research. I was always a feminist at heart.

Nerina Finetto: What does it mean to be a feminist?

Sandra: It means to have a position in which you believe that you are able to do whatever you want to do without having to tell people that you have the right to. You just do it, you can do whatever or as much as men do, so there should be no limitations. I do believe in equal rights for men and women.

Nerina Finetto: What does it mean to you, being a professor?

Sandra: This is what I like best about the kind of work that I do. As I said I am an administrator, but I like to be a professor, I like to publish, I like to think. I like to be able to teach my students a lot of the things that I research on. I think it’s a way for you to pass on not only your knowledge, but it’s a way for you to contribute to a better society. I do believe in that.

Sandra: As I said, if my students leave my classroom and they learn to be better readers, more critical about what happens in the world, I’m happy with what I did with my job. That’s what I like best.

Nerina Finetto: What is the role of the humanities, in your opinion?

Sandra: I think all over the world, there is being the evaluation of the humanities. I think we can’t deny that. I think the way that the world has evolved, what has been valued, is usually the exact science, administration, not very much the humanities, which of course I think it’s a mistake. I think the humanities are essential for our world as it is nowadays. Not only because it provides us with the tools to be more critical about what goes on in all other disciplines, but also because it adds to whatever you are doing in the other fields. So I’m very much a believer in the power of interdisciplinary, to your transdisciplinary, that’s what people have been talking about. A world that is not limited to a discipline specifically.

Sandra: So because we have moved towards a society that wants results more than anything else, the humanities have been devalued as a profession. Which I think is horrible for the world, and I think, on the contrary, what has to be done, is to have more dialogue among the disciplines, so that the humanities are able to do what it does best, which is to open the grounds for other ways of thinking, to be critical, I think it teaches us how to be critical, it teaches us how to deal with the other. That’s what we have to do all the time, especially in the world we live in.

Nerina Finetto: To deal with others and to listen to others. One of your main interests is also translation, right?

Sandra: The ideal situation would be for us to know other languages, but since we do not know other languages, the means for us to listen to the other that we would not otherwise listen to, is by means of translation. But that means that the translator has a very important role, the role of mediator. So the translator has to mediate not only the context, but also he or she has to have an ethical responsibility towards the subject whose language this person is translating. So it has to do with cultural diversity. I think in terms of culture, it’s not only translation from language to language. It’s a political positioning as well. Since we cannot learn all the languages of the world, we do need translation so that others can speak through us, and also translators. So I’m interested in that. So I’m working with the Swiss theory of translation as a means to listen to the other.

Nerina Finetto: What connection does language have with identity?

Sandra: It has everything to do. You are built, you’re constructed through language. The way that you think has to do with the language that you speak. What I’m trying to discuss here is that especially those so-called minority languages, if they’re not preserved, if they’re not translated, if there’s no dialogue with the other language, they’re going to end up simply disappearing, you know? So that’s what I’m talking … the important role of the translator as a mediator. Translators are kind of mediators between two worlds. But this translator is a translator who, especially when you translate from, for example, an indigenous language in Brazil, they need to be preserved, but they also need to be translated, if there’s going to be some kind of understanding between the peoples.

Sandra: But for you translate, you have to show respect for that language. Because that language is part of that, an identity of a subject, but it’s also a cultural identity of a people. So it’s important for you to show respect, to show understanding, towards that people.

Nerina Finetto: What kind of society do you dream of?

Sandra: An equal society. We live, especially in Brazil, it’s a very unequal society. Few people have a lot of money, and a lot of people don’t have enough. And I dream of living in a society that is more just, more equal in all aspects, [inaudible 00:20:16] gender equality is very important that people … I dream of a society in which people have access to education and to health. And I try to work towards that aim, because I do believe, and I think education has a major role, and I think universities play a major role in countries like Brazil, in which not many young adults are able to get into the universities, so our contribution is to try and put as many students as possible into the university, so that it reaches a way of social mobility as well. It’s a means of inclusion; it’s a way to give them access to things that otherwise they would not have access to. So I think it’s a long battle. It’s not easy, but that’s what I dream of. When we’re a just, equal, fair, inclusive society.

Nerina Finetto: With all the challenges that we are facing, do you think that we should keep speaking about feminism?

Sandra: It is essential to continue speaking about feminism. It’s essential to do that. I think it’s the way. Feminism has come a long way. It fought many battles, and I think it’s always going to be essential to talk about that. When you still have a lot of violence against women, when women are not allowed to have the same jobs that men do, or the same salary as men do, when women are forced to follow some kind of dress code, because of impositions of a patriarchal society; when all of these are still happening, it becomes even more relevant to talk about feminism. Because it’s about equal rights, about women doing whatever they want to do, having no limitations in terms of what society tells them what they have to do, what they don’t have to do.

Nerina Finetto: It is still pretty complicated for women to combine children, a family, with a career, even your research. How do you see it?

Sandra: If they want to be mothers, they should be mothers. If they want to have kids, they should have kids. They should do whatever they want to do. We don’t tell men what they should do and what they should not do. Nobody ever told them. Maybe they say “we should not cry, because men don’t cry”, maybe like that, but they’re not … if they want to do something, they should be able to do that as well. So I think women can be whatever they want to do. If they want to be mothers, they should be that, if they don’t want to be, they shouldn’t be forced to be mothers, either.

Sandra: I’m not a mother. I don’t have children, but my whole life people ask me “aren’t you going to have children?” What is behind the question is “oh, poor thing, she’s not a mother, oh poor thing”. I don’t feel like that, so it’s nobody’s business. It’s up to me. Because I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean that I have to have children, okay? But if somebody wants to have children, I think they should have. But of course, having children is, the way our society’s structured, is a burden for women most of the time. Not always but most of the time. Why? Because once you have children, it’s difficult for you to have work, to go out and get a good job, you’re responsible for the house. Some women like it, but most of them don’t like it, they want to go out and to do other things, they don’t want to stay home taking care of kids and taking care of the house, but if they do want, and they are happy with that, I have nothing against it. They are not “less” women because of that.

Sandra: So then that’s why politics, based on women rights, is also important. We have to give the women the economic conditions to do that if they want to be mothers. Then we have, what, day care for women, they should have maternity leave so that they can take care of their children then come back to work, they have to be protected by law, because if it’s up to society, they’re not going to be protected.

Nerina Finetto: What was the most difficult day, and what was the most beautiful one?

Sandra: The most difficult day? Possibly one day when I had to face sexism. When I was disregarded for being a woman, when my ideas were not considered, not because somebody doesn’t like my ideas, but because I am a woman, and because of that, my ideas are not valued as a man’s idea. This was a sad moment.

Sandra: And a happy moment was recently, actually, when a student of mine took a course with me, and sent me a message. I think those moments, I think sometimes it happens … it doesn’t happen every day, but it happens once a year, somebody sends you a message saying that you made a difference in her life or in his life; I think this is a very good day. That your teaching, the way that you work, what you did in your job, was important enough for somebody to feel that “oh, my life is changed. It changed the path that I was going towards”.

Nerina Finetto: Thank you, Sandra, for this conversation.

Sandra: Thank you. Thank you, it’s a pleasure.

Nerina Finetto: And thank you for watching, thank you for listening, thank you for sharing. And feel free to reach out to me if you have any suggestions. Keep wondering, and see you soon again. Bye and Ciao.


Rector of UFMG, placed in the southeast of Brazil, the most industrialized region of the country. UFMG is a free-of-charge public educational institution, in the oldest university in the state of Minas Gerais.

Wenderson de Lima

Wenderson de Lima
Doctoral researcher in economics

Stockholm Business School, Sweden

What NGOs can do. A story between Brazil and Sweden

Modern age brought with it innovations into every aspect of our lives. We use technology to connect, to learn, and of course, to help other people. The problem is, we usually ask the people who help, not the people who receive help, just what is needed. Wenderson De Lima, from the Stockholm business school, wants to understand the real needs of ordinary people. His aim is to create spaces in which the people who are being “helped,” can feel they are able to talk openly about their problems.

Watch the video:
Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Wenderson de Lima's Video here

Wenderson: My name is Wenderson de Lima. I am a doctoral researcher at the business school in Stockholm.

Nerina: What is the topic of your dissertation?

Wenderson: The topic of my dissertation is humanitarian innovations and entrepreneurship in developing countries and I am accessing a little bit of the innovations that are being developed in Europe, Stockholm and I’m following them from development to implementation in developing countries.

Nerina: What are the most relevant questions you would like to address? 

Wenderson: There is a growth of technologies for helping people and we want to know how these technologies are perceived by those who develop them and those who receive them. I mean usually in the media what you hear is the interpretation of those who develop, the interpretation of the entrepreneurs but we want to hear as well the accounts coming from people who are at the receiving end of those technologies. That’s what my research is dealing with.

Nerina: What is peculiar about this sector?

Wenderson: In our markets, I mean in the societies where the markets is the main provider as consumer you have a vote and you have a voice. Every time you buy a product you have your vote and your voice heard when you purchase that product and many are dealing with that people receiving humanitarian innovations. You know, that we relation between consumer and a business it’s kind of fragmented by people who fund those products having in mind that many of the consumers cannot really out of their pockets pay for those products then you have a part actually paying for those products. And then this is a relationship that is more complicated than actually consumer and then business relation.

Nerina: What do you think we should change in this relationship?

Wenderson: I think it’s easier said than done but I think that we should… I mean when I say we I talk about the people who are coming from this part of the world we should question our taking for granted assumptions about what people need. You should try to create new links to try to understand the people you’re trying to help. I think that we should give a lot more attention to what’s going on in local context because there’s a big risk that we are losing that. We are losing the connection to what people on the ground in the local context are really trying to do with their lives.

Nerina: How can we do it?

Wenderson: I think first of all is that we could create spaces where people that are being “helped” they can feel they can openly talk about what they need. Because if you do not create that space where people can actually tell you what they want, what they need then you from the beginning you may create a product that is useless for them. I in the quality of an ex-slum dweller I understand how difficult it may feel to actually openly talk about your needs to people coming from outside and that is a big, big obstacle to helping people because people like me who live in these areas favelas usually tend to assume that no one will ever understand us so, therefore, you kind of do not share much of your reality to people who do not face the same problems. So that’s also a big issue.

Now I’m generalizing but a lot of people face the problem of not feeling safe to tell what they want, they do not feel not only hurt but they feel like I will tell what but who is going to care about that. That’s something I think is a consequence of a structural discrimination of the people living in these areas.

Nerina: What should we pay more attention to, in your opinion? 

Wenderson: I think what we should pay attention to is what exactly people in these areas, people living in areas where poverty is extreme what they say about their own solutions, what is that they want. Because I mean it’s not new. In the aid industry everybody knows that because these people they do not finance their own products, they tend to lose voice when NGOs design the help they give for people in that situation. I think the biggest challenge is actually getting access to the stories of the people who are to some extent receiving help in these countries, in developing countries. You have to be able to see your attempt to help other people as a learning process, not as a one size fits all, but also we should be careful to not exaggerate the ability of innovations to help people because there are a lot of political issues that have to be addressed as well. We should not forget why people are in need, we should not actually forget about the political aspects of each and every problem we are trying to address and they are all around them. You see that with the refugees now, all kinds of slum people, living in the slums as well. I mean how are we supposed to address these issues without touching upon political issues?

Nerina: How was your personal experience? What do you remember from your childhood? 

Wenderson: I think that what I saw during my time as a child  I don’t know if you remember what was going in the 80’s and 90’s in Brazil. The 80’s probably here in Europe you’ve seen in the news how Brazilian kids living in the streets were being shot by death squads and so on. We had those types of problems going on in Brazil and for me we had a single but big NGO around close to where I lived, close to the favela where I lived and I remember that one of the biggest things during that time was the notion of our cultural identity. It was very important to be exotic Brazilian at the time. I mean I am very thankful because the NGO was the reason why I was fed, I could find food for a while. The NGO does not exist anymore but I remember that my brothers and I went to their office many times because they had courses about Brazilian music, all of that afro Brazilian identity and it was the only agenda at the moment. I remember that I had both me and my brothers we had loads of fun playing Brazilian instruments, playing Brazilian music but at the end of the day we were there because of the food they served. It wasn’t really because of the so called the Brazilian award of the Afro-Brazilian identity. I understand that it may sound a little bit provocative for many people who think that they have the right to be authentic and so on but I always saw that as something secondary. You have your basic needs. When you live in poverty you pay attention to your basic needs more than your identity. You think of your identity when you… I mean in the state I am now I have food in the fridge so now I have the time and resources to think about my Afro-Brazilian identity.

Nerina: How did you get away from a slum in Brazil to a university in Sweden? 

Wenderson: That’s a big question and the first thing is that I received help as I say for a long time. It wasn’t something I received once and then I have built a huge empire of wealth around it and that’s what I am trying to. I usually tell people that I received help from the Catholic church specifically from a nun in the Catholic church close to where I lived. She was well educated and she helped me a lot with school and stuff and that help was absolutely crucial. I can tell you I devote a lot of what I have done so far to the people who helped me. Not only because they helped me but because they gave me a voice and that’s something not a lot of people did.

Nerina: What is the society you dream of? 

Wenderson: I think that equality should be on the table all the time when we talk about the way a society should look like and I still did not know where to look when I talk about the equality. I actually hope that there will be more and more collective thinking. Thank you.


Stockholm Business School, Sweden

Almas Taj Awan

Almas Taj Awan
Professor of Chemistry

Researcher, ThoMSon Mass Spectrometry Lab, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

From Pakistan to Brazil, linking science and community

Everyday, we throw away tons of waste. But where does it all go? Can we turn waste into something usable and economically valuable? Can recycling be profitable? From extracting value-added products from oranges, to purifying water, Almas Taj Awan’s aim is to make our world a cleaner and better place for everybody.

Watch the trailer:
Watch the video:
Listen to the Audiofile here:
Read the transcript of Almas Taj Awan's Video here

Almas: My name is Almas. I am based in Brazil. Originally I’m from Pakistan and I am postdoc researcher in Uni Camp, Brazil.

Nerina: What are your main research topics?

Almas: I am working with recycling technologies. In my Ph.D. I worked with recycling citrus industrial waste and we extracted some value added products from that. After that, I entered in a research area that was linked to recycling technologies that were used for water reclamation. We were studying how we can purify the waste water in the waste water treatment plants and currently I am working with mass spectrometric techniques and we are using these techniques for analysis of different kinds of substances.

Nerina: Why are you so passionate about recycling?

Almas: Well, I am passionate about recycling because I think that our world needs this. We have lots and lots of problems linked with the waste generation and when the companies and the industry generate waste they actually don’t know what to do with that and normally. Let’s say if I talk about citrus industrial waste every year as Brazil is the largest orange producer, so millions of tons of oranges they are treated in the citrus industry and as a result, millions of tons of waste are incinerated. Because when you treat orange around 50% of that is left as a waste and that is normally dumped at some far place. So what we did, I mean me with my Ph.D. advisor and some other students as well, we tried to use that so called waste and tried to convert that into something really usable and something really economically viable.

Also if I talk about the water recycling technologies, I think that the next problem that the world is going to face is a water shortage problem and we really need to think about it. How we can reduce water consumption and what kind of technologies we can utilize to re-use the water? Like, let’s say for the toilet flushing or for the washing purposes, the house cleaning I think we can use reclaimed water for that purpose instead of using the drinking water for that purpose.

Nerina: What kind of results did you get from your dissertation?

Almas: Okay well, from the orange waste four main products that we extracted were first of all I would like to say pectin. Pectin is kind of a jelling agent and it can be used in the jams, jellies, marmalades or the juice industry for thickening purpose. Then the second one that we obtained was hesperidin that is an antioxidant, it’s an antidepressant as well. It’s a natural product and it can be used as a remedy. Next product that we obtained was nanocellulose and nanocellulose is nowadays a very active research area and it can be used for the – ah how can I say it – as the protective sheets on the cellphones or on the cars and they’re many other uses as well that are under research study and then it was bioethanol. Bioethanol is something that you can use for running the cars.

Brazil is a country that has made an example for the whole world because it’s the world largest producer of bioethanol but that bioethanol is actually the first generation bioethanol. But in our case, we are working from the bio waste and that is a second generation biofuel and that is the next technology that’s efficient technology because taking out bioethanol from the food products is something that has many challenges. Probably these food crops they could be used for providing food because the world has a lot of problems with food scarcity, food shortage. So probably we can use that for the other purposes as food items, but the waste that is left; the agricultural waste that is left, that waste can be converted into a biofuel.

So, here in Brazil, there are many laboratories that are doing research. Actually, there are many ways to convert that into biofuel but the only problem is that the economic viability of that process on the industrial level. But in our case when we tried to… when we were exploring this process we had this objective in mind that we need to reduce the waste. I mean we need to use the waste, but also we need to make a process that should be economically viable that could be applied on the industrial scale. So, when you work on the industrial scale you need to think about the money. The input and the output should be in balance or it should generate some revenue as well. So in our case, we tried different enzymes because right now the main problem that the industry is facing they are the high cost of enzymes. So we used Xac enzymes that are the lowest known in cost. So we think that the process is economically viable.

Nerina: The approach that you used was a new one?

Almas: Yes, it was a new approach in the sense that in Brazil ours was the first one. We tried to work with this and we were really successful and our approach was to extract as many products as we can.

Nerina: What are the possible real world applications of your results?

Almas: I think this product is marvelous and all the products that we extracted we can extract them on the industrial scale. Right now we are working with some companies to make some contract with us or with our lab and we’re trying to share the patent with them.

Nerina: What does it mean for you to be a scientist?

Almas: For me to be a scientist is, you know, I feel it’s a really big responsibility. It’s a really, really a big responsibility because every new disease that the world is facing, the population is facing or any environmental problem or any real life problem that the world is facing I think that scientists they try their best to solve that problem at the research level, at the very basic level. Well, there are two types of researchers: one is a basic research, the other one is the applied research and I think both of them are really, really important. Because the basic research it gives us fundamentals of future concepts related to science. While the applied research it is something that deals with the current problems that the population is facing. So I think both of them are equally important and I’m really passionate about them.

Nerina: Why did you become a researcher?

Almas: Well, I became a researcher because I think that I’m quite ambitious and I want to solve certain problems faced by the society. If I talk about my childhood I never thought about this that I would be a researcher, I would be a future scientist. I belong to a village from Pakistan where I think I am the first one who came out of that village and my parents they sent me abroad to have a scientific career. Because when a child I never thought that I would be a scientist. I never thought because I was like I can be a doctor or I can be an engineer or any other thing but not a scientist. How can a woman be a scientist? I had never seen scientists around me. That was something I never even thought about.

But when I started my master’s I always tried to think about science and how it works. I was in Pakistan and at that time there was a lack of resources, but then I got to know about the fellowship that is offered by The World Academy of Science (TWAS). I applied for that and eventually, I started my research career in Brazil.

Nerina: What kind of challenges did you encounter on your way?

Almas: Well, I think that there were many challenges like I was coming from Pakistan a society from where we don’t have that much of female scientists and then, my family, they were really supportive: my father, my mother, my siblings but of course society they imposed a lot of things on you and then they’re like… I mean even there it’s not common for the girls to travel alone abroad and then working with science away from the family something it’s a bit scary not seeing them that much good situation. But the thing is that like in the beginning it was like a little bit difficult but with the passage of time when I started showing that yes I’m a girl but I can do anything and I can do work as a scientist just like the men in my country can do and I can be extraordinary as well and I can be independent as well. So it is something that now makes me feel really proud and not just me even my family and I think that I can probably be an example maybe for some girls who want to proceed with their dreams, who want to do whatever they want.

Nerina: What kind of advice would you give to another young woman who would like to become a researcher?

Almas: I would like to say that the doors are open for you. I mean the doors are open for you. You just need to have the courage to enter that door because all over the world what I see is that academic and scientific councils are really encouraging women. I mean wherever you would like to apply for higher studies research grants they really encourage women. We need more and more women so that the gender gap that exists between science and women it should be overcome and secondly, there are many issues that are linked in the underdeveloped countries. I think that women from the underdeveloped countries I would really, really encourage them not to have fear about anything, just be bold, take the practical steps, look forward and work hard. You can do it.

Nerina: What motivates you?

Almas: Well this is a really personal question. I think my motivation is my parents because I see they have struggled throughout their lives to make their children independent. So when I feel that or whenever I have some difficult times in my life I just think about them, they’re my motivation and I just try to make myself better and just try to make and have more and more achievements so that they can be more and more proud with me.

Nerina: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? What would you like to change?

Almas: Well, in the long term I would like to be part of the policy making bodies at the regional or the government or the global level. So what I would like to change is that I would like to make a bridge and I would like to reduce the gap that exists between the scientific community and the policymakers.

Nerina: What kind of society do you dream of?

Almas: Well, I dream of a society that is peaceful because currently I think that the world… I mean the only thing the world needs currently right now, the first priority is peace and then on the second level I feel that there should be… I dream of a society where every individual knows about its responsibility not just on a local level but on the global level as a global citizen.

Nerina: Do you have a dream or a wish for the future?

Almas: Yes, my dream for the future is that our government officials and the policymakers start thinking on the global level or I should say glocally. It means they should consider their local interests as well but the global interest as well because at the end of the day all human beings are the ones who share this planet. So probably our one wrong policy can not only influence our local community but also the global one. I think I really wish that our politicians around the world start thinking about the planet earth, about all of us, they think about the global citizens not just their local citizens.

Nerina: Thank you Almas so much for this conversation.

Almas: Thanks to you for inviting me, for sharing my thoughts.


Researcher, ThoMSon Mass Spectrometry Lab, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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