The following article, written by the president of the Humanitas360 Institute, Patrícia Villela Marino, was published in CIVI-CO Mag, a publication of the CIVI-CO social impact hub, in October.
A series of preconceptions hover over the North and Northeast of Brazil that prevent us from seeing the region’s potential, without neglecting its socioeconomic challenges. The uninformed observer could be surprised, for example, by a recent study by the Brazilian Institute of Economics at FGV, which estimated GDP growth in the Northeast at 3.4% for 2022, above that observed in the country (2.9%). In the analysis of GDP per capita, on the other hand, the region presents the lowest level in Brazil. A complex look, driven by a sense of justice, at these contradictions not only reveals a space of lack, but an open field for social innovation.
Alongside the Humanitas360 Institute team, I have closely observed and helped transform this reality. Since the end of 2019, at the time with the support of former governor Flávio Dino, the state of Maranhão has become one of our main points of action, with initiatives carried out by the sum of efforts between organized civil society, public authorities and university in promoting citizenship. In the last 12 months, however, work in this northeastern state was the main focus of our work. And it will be there that, in September, we will hold the annual meeting of H360 board of advisors.
Our “Maranhense year” begins in March 2022, when we hold a triple celebration at the premiere of Marrom, o Musical at Teatro Arthur Azevedo, in São Luís. On the same stage where Alcione’s life and work were sung, the embroidery developed by the women of the social cooperative created by H360 in the state, sponsored by the singer from Maranhão. Many of them obtained in court the right to attend the premiere and recognize the fruit of their work in the beauty of the musical. It was an unforgettable and emotional night for all of us.
We returned to the state in April with the desire to do more. Therefore, we renewed with the Maranhão authorities the cooperation agreement that guarantees the continuity of the work we started in 2020. Signed at the State Court of Justice in the presence of the judge and president Paulo Velten, the agreement allows the cooperative of imprisoned women installed in the São Luís Women’s Prison Unit to continue with its mission: being a complete and integrated resocialization instrument, which includes psychosocial care and legal guidance, in addition to generating income, transferred directly to personal bank accounts, opened with the support of the institute.
Throughout the journey of cooperatives of this type incubated by H360, we came to the conclusion that the work carried out within prisons is fundamental, but it is the first of many steps. It is necessary to continue accompanying women as they return to freedom, in order to consolidate their reintegration into society. In this sense, the cooperation agreement included the expansion of our activities in the state beyond the prisons, with assistance to women released from the prison system.
The idea materialized in the Tereza Store & Workshop, opened in the historic downtown of São Luís at the end of May. The project occupies a room at the headquarters of the Marandu Agency, the innovation and entrepreneurship hub of the State University of Maranhão, which signed an agreement with H360 on the occasion to develop projects together.
The space consolidates the maturity stage of the Tereza brand, a social business that sells artisanal products made by imprisoned women, those released from the prison system and victims of domestic violence. Articles sold there carry – more than the good taste of the pieces – the values of social responsibility, by representing the possibility of a fresh start for vulnerable women. They also carry the mark of sustainability, as they are made from recycled materials.
With the support of Marandu, we exhibited some of these products at the NEon – Nordeste On innovation fair, promoted by Sebrae in the capital of Maranhão at the beginning of June. Participating in the event as a guest on the panel that discussed bioeconomy and circular economy trends was a renewing experience. I left Sebrae Multicenter in São Luís even more convinced of the potential of the region and the people who fight there to improve their lives and the world around them. The work ahead – theirs and ours – is great.