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Brazilian workplace initiative helps women out of poverty trap

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Denise Turner
WVoN co-editor 

Mão na Massa (Get your hands dirty) aims to transform the lives of impoverished women in Brazil by training them for roles in the construction industry.

Aimed at women aged 18 to 45 years old, it’s a non-profit scheme that trains women from the favelas (slums) in trades such as plumbing, house-painting and bricklaying.

To date 94 women have completed training and now work in the construction industry. Their typical earnings are 631 reais a month; 14 times what they could previously expect to earn.

The hike in earnings helps to transforms participants’ lives by offering them financial independence. Training is free, as is transport, protective clothing and after qualifying, a tool kit to start up in business.

The appointment on 1 January 2011 of Brazil’s first woman president Dilma Rousseff has helped create opportunities for women in the workplace.

And despite the country’s sluggish economy, there is little sign of a slow-down in the jobs market.

Salaries have continued to rise, unemployment is at a record low and a talent shortage has encouraged companies to abandon male-oriented recruitment policies.

Norma Sá of Mão na Massa says graduates face little prejudice on-site: “Men don’t worry that it’s competition for ‘their’ jobs, because there is so much work for everyone.”

The then president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said at the opening of the PAC (Growth Acceleration Programme) in the Manguinhos slum, Rio de Janeiro in March 2008:

“As I see women with work clothes, they have already made progress on behalf of the PAC, these women are more respected by their own comrades because they will take home a part of what will feed their children, money earned at the expense sweat and blood of these people, this is what we want.”

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