She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Creuza Maria Oliveira (1957) became a domestic worker at age ten. Her first payment, which was worthless, came at 15. As thousands of Brazilian children, she increased the child labor statistics. As not many of them were able to do, she changed her life. President of the National Federation of Domestic Workers FENATRAD, she is currently a national role model in the fight for the rights of her working class, for racial equality and for the elimination of child domestic labor.
She says: “We, women, are responsible for changing this society. How can we live in a country that turns its back on 500.000 children and teenagers being abused”.
Creuza Maria Oliveira – Brazil
She works for the Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas FENATRAD (named: on Ministerio do Trabalho e Emprego; on ADITAL; on Trabalhadoras Domésticas no Brasil) / (she is President of) the National Federation of Domestic Workers.
In Brazil, half a million kids and teenagers between 5 and 18 years old are domestic workers. They have to leave their toys and books behind, in order to support themselves. Creuza Maria Oliveira is the portrait of something that still happens all over Brazil. “A lot of girls leave school, move out of their families’ house, and lose touch with children of their age and social class. As they grow up, their only role model is their employer.”
Creuza used to live in the countryside in the hinterland of Bahia. There was not enough food for everyone. Her mother sent her to the city. She used to cook, clean and do the laundry seven days a week. This lonely life lasted until she was 26, when she found out, through a radio show, that domestic workers were meeting to discuss their rights.
In 1985, along with her colleagues, she created an association. They joined leaderships from other states and managed to include domestic worker’s rights in the new 1988 Brazilian Constitution. She founded the Union of Domestic Workers of Bahia and she also founded the National Federation of Domestic Workers, presided by her.
Creuza attends meetings throughout the country and abroad. She has regained her self-esteem and always has a beautiful smile on her face. She is the reason for 8 million Brazilian domestic workers to be proud. She uses her history to fight against child domestic labor. She tries to increase the awareness of politicians and society regarding the situation and gives classes to young domestic workers. She teaches them their rights as citizens. And, on top of all that, she tells them to love themselves as Afro-Brazilian women and competent professionals.
According to a research called PNAD (2001), 2.2 million Brazilian children and teenagers, between ages 5 and 14, work in different positions. This number goes as high as 5.5 million, between the ages of 5 and 17; one million of them do not study and 49% do not receive payment. (1000peacewomen).
She writes: … In order to talk about discrimination and racism in Brazil, I am going to start by referring to the colonization of the Americas, and consequently, to the enslavement of the African peoples. A system of domination that denied the humanity of the peoples it subjected, treating them as mere objects. Brazil received more enslaved Africans -almost 4,500,000 people- than any other country, and Brazilian society was built on and developed thanks to the work of those slaves. That inequality persists today in all spheres: economic, cultural, social and educational, etc. My history is no different from that of so many other black female domestic workers who come from poor families. Driven out of the countryside by poverty and precarious living conditions, these families have no option but to send their sons and daughters off to work as cheap labour. The majority arrive in the large cities when they are still very young and become part of a child labour force that is one of the terrible consequences of the inequality and exploitation that exist in Brazilian society … (full text).
Apoio às trabalhadoras domésticas: CREUZA MARIA OLIVEIRA, 43 anos, solteira, passou a infância no sertão da Bahia. Quando completou 10 anos, deixou a roça, onde vivia com a mãe, para trabalhar como doméstica em Santo Amaro da Purificação, a 84 quilômetros de Salvador. Ficaram para trás as brincadeiras e os sonhos infantis. Ela cuidou de crianças, cozinhou, limpou, lavou roupas. Em troca de sobras de comida e roupas usadas, cumpriu uma jornada de mais de 12 horas, de segunda a segunda. Só começou a receber uma remuneração, irrisória, aos 15 anos. Carteira assinada e direito a folga quinzenal obteve apenas quando fez 21 anos. Como tantos outros menores do país, ela engrossou as estatísticas da mão-de-obra infantil. No Brasil, 2,2 milhões de crianças e adolescentes entre 5 e 14 anos trabalham, segundo dados da Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD) de 2001. Na faixa de 5 a 17 anos, o número sobe para 5,5 milhões, sendo que 1 milhão deles está fora da escola e 49% não recebem qualquer remuneração. Aos 26 anos, já em Salvador, Creuza ouviu num programa de rádio que um grupo de domésticas começava a brigar por seus direitos. “Fui à reunião e encontrei lá somente quatro mulheres. Fiquei decepcionada, mas percebi que poderia ajudar a engrossar aquela corda.” Começou a distribuir folhetos nas escolas noturnas e nos terminais de ônibus convidando mais trabalhadoras. Pouco tempo depois, Creuza e suas parceiras criaram a Associação Profissional das Domésticas e, em 1990, o Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Domésticos da Bahia. Ela já levou sua experiência para muitos países. Em 2001, foi convidada para dar palestras na 3a Conferência Mundial contra o Racismo, a Discriminação Racial, a Xenofobia e a Intolerância Correlata, da ONU, em Durban, na África do Sul. Atualmente, é presidente da Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas e representante da Comissão Especial do Trabalho Infantil Doméstico. Arruma tempo ainda para freqüentar aulas do ensino fundamental e dar cursos de formação para jovens trabalhadoras domésticas em parceria com o Ceafro, programa educacional de profissionalização de jovens. “Tinha vergonha de tirar o lenço da cabeça. Hoje tenho orgulho da minha raça e levanto a auto-estima dessas meninas que têm histórias semelhantes à minha” … (full text).