For two weeks in March, Team CSPS traveled to Brazil and Argentina to catch up with Emerging Leaders from the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program.
Spending time with Cassia Damiani (class of 2012), Daniela Castro (2013) and Paula Korsakas (2014) in Sao Paulo, and Luz Amuchastegui (2013) in Rosario, CSPS staff was able to dive into each woman’s unique context and learn about the specific ways they are empowering girls and women in their communities.
Here’s a summary of some of our activity during the trip’s first leg in Sao Paulo and Brasilia.
Day 1: Sport and Social Development in Itaquera
Upon landing in Brazil, the team gathered our luggage and equipment and boarded a bus headed straight to Itaquera, one of the eastern districts of Sao Paulo, to meet with Fran Silva and his group of volunteers, staff, and athletes at the Kaue Sports and Culture Club (AECK).
After a professional career in futsal and mixed martial arts, Fran started the AECK to provide sports and learning opportunities to community members in his low-income, high-crime neighborhood. Shortly after starting this journey, he had the idea to paint a 200m running track on the street adjacent to the club. The track revolutionized the socialization and health of Fran’s community and has become a symbol of hope and empowerment for residents.
This track is now home to one of the largest running events in the area, boasting more than 4,000 participants and spectators. AECK has also produced two national champions, Rafael Santeramo and Tabatha Dias, who still live and train in Itaquera.
“This club gives our kids a way out of violence, drugs and alcoholism. I want to show there is a better way to live. And, as long as there is strength in our legs and arms I will continue to fight for this dream.” Fran Silva, founder of Kaue Sports and Culture Club
After leaving AECK, the team went to a Sesc location nearby, where we met with past and present Estrelas do Futebol (“female soccer stars”) players, many of whom traveled to Knoxville in April 2014 as Sports Visitors, to engage in classroom and field activities.
During these sessions, many of the girls conveyed their passion to continue learning and growing, both personally and academically, after the exchange. They also shared the challenges facing them in their neighborhoods and within their families, from financial issues that could prevent them from staying in school and getting onto college to cultural expectations of their roles as women. Despite these challenges, the girls committed themselves to the pursuit of a better life.
“I feel like this is when we have to put into action what we learned in Knoxville. This is the time when every decision we make matters for the future. The challenges will never go away. We may trip up, but we have to get up and keep running.” Paula Bellisario, Estrela and 2014 Sports Visitor
Day 4: Women Reclaim the Park on International Women’s Day
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Paula Korsakas, a former basketball coach and current sports manager at the University of Sao Paulo, organized a pick-up basketball event intended to reclaim space for female players who are otherwise bullied off the city’s public courts.
Team CSPS spent three hours playing basketball and discussing gender equality issues with the very diverse and strong group of athletic women, some of whom shared they hadn’t played pick-up basketball in years due to concerns they’d be sidelined by male players.
“For me, every Sunday is about basketball. Today, as women, we’ve claimed our place on these courts so that other women who walk by and see us can play, too.” Priscila Lourenco, basketball player and coach
“We brought the noise and wanted to shout out we are here and this is our space, too. We want this group of women to grow and be in other parks, in other cities and all over our country.” Paula Korsakas, GSMP 2014
Day 5: “Women for Sport for Women” Historic Meeting
On Day Five, the team traveled to the capital city of Brasilia for a landmark meeting between the Ministry of Sport and REMS, the Sport and Social Change Network in Brazil. The meeting marked the first time in the country’s history that government and civil society came together to discuss women’s sports.
Cassia, director of strategic planning within the Ministry of Sport, spoke at length, and was guaranteed by Minister of Sport George Hilton that her Title IX legislative proposal will receive his support and be passed onto the National Congress in July. If enacted, this means equal equal federal funding for women’s sports programs, marking nationwide transformation in the operationalization of sport in sports-crazed Brazil, and equal access and opportunity for both sexes.
“Title IX has caused changes in the U.S. concerning women’s careers and sports. So this is a very fertile moment. I’m excited, I’m thrilled, I can’t deny it. You already know me, you know how sentimental I am, even though I’m a fortress when it comes to fighting for my rights, for women’s rights and for the rights of the poor.” Cassia Damiani, GSMP 2012
Day 6: Corporate Women Unite to Discuss Professional Mentorship
On Day 6, Daniela Castro, executive director of Athletes for Brazil, mobilized more than 40 businesswomen to attend a two-hour seminar on the importance of professional development and mentoring. The meeting was held at the Google Brazil headquarters in downtown Sao Paulo, as part of the Mulheres do Brasil (“women of Brazil”) network. The women at the meeting represented a variety of industries and influential companies, including Google, P&G, Audi, Nike, MasterCard and Ted Talks.
The workshop included presentations from CSPS directors Hillyer and Huffman, GSMP Alum Daniela Castro, and all four GSMP mentors who traveled to South America — Julie Eddleman of Google, and John Lisko, Joan Coraggio and Gwen Conley of Saatchi LA.
“We have to learn how to participate in and change society together. This is only my third meeting with this group, but I believe it is a great start for our network in reaching our goals.” Daniela Castro, GSMP 2013
Day 7: Embrace the Challenge – Critical Discussion with Athletes & Social Educators
On the morning of Day 7, Paula organized a workshop with private and public educators in the city to discuss the ways sport can be used to empower women and promote youth development. During the session, participants identified the most pressing issues facing youth in their community, including psychological and structural violence against women and girls, and socioeconomic inequality, resulting in high rates of drug use. Participants brainstormed the ways sport can be used to address these issues and created a list of best practices when working with underserved populations.
“We believe sports can be used as a tool to help change many of these problems and I’m happy so many people could be here today to move forward in this together.” Paula Korsakas, GSMP 2014
In the afternoon, Team CSPS, in coordination with the Saatchi LA mentors, led discussions with some of Brazil’s best and brightest athletes. Organized by EWGTS alumna, Renata Lopes, quality of life director at SESI, the session included a discussion on the importance of women’s sports, and how female athletes can market their achievements to promote their sports and also social change. Those in attendance included current and future Paralympians and Olympians — “Magic” Paula Silva (basketball), Aline Silva (wrestling), Veronica Hipolito (track & field), Soraia Alvarenga (table tennis), Vanessa Pereira (futsal) and Evelyn Oliveira (bocce).
“Many of the women I’ve worked with haven’t become athletes. They’ve become dentists and lawyers, but sports was an important part of their lives. I believe that sports should be available to everyone.” Paula Silva, second-highest scorer in Brazil women’s basketball history
“This cannot be a war against men. Women cannot be at the back and they cannot be at the front. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder to make sports available for everyone.” Cassia Damiani, GSMP 2012
Day 8: Women of the World Unite Finding Inspiration in Action
The Closing Summit marked a welcomed reunion and opportunity to convene with all of the women who had participated in the week’s events. The audience was a reflection of the energy, passion and commitment of the three Brazilian Emerging Leaders, who work so hard to reclaim parks, create corporate mentorship opportunities and pass landmark Title IX legislation. Representing the three key sectors of society, from federal government to business to education, Cassia, Daniela, and Paula are the ultimate dream team.
What became evident on our visit to Brazil is that these women are radically changing the way other women experience life; not just on the court or on the field, but in the classroom, in the boardroom and in the mirror. These women have mobilized incredible networks of women who are hungry for new opportunities to learn, grow and lead. We look forward to the way these empowered women will use sport to change the future of Brazil for the next generation.
The team would also like to give special thanks goes to Julie Eddleman, for her thought-provoking presentation on personal branding, and to U.S. General Consul Dennis Hankins for his inspiring remarks. And lastly, a heartfelt thanks to the Museu de Futebol for hosting this incredible event!
“In this world, you’ve gotta make you’re own action, so whatever that is, do it.” – Dr. Huffman, CSPS assistant director
“This has been absolutely amazing. Aside from raising my five children, mentoring these women has been the most important thing I’ve done in my 44 years.” Julie Eddleman, mentor and global client partner for Google
“I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my action plan without a person like Cassia in a high government position and for Daniela to mobilize the business leaders.” Paula Korsakas, GSMP 2014
In Part 2, we’ll look at some photos and special moments from the second leg of the #Brazentina trip in Rosario!