She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
Zaida Cabral, born in 1951 in Maputo (Mozambique), is an educationalist. She is currently an education advisor for the Danish NGO Danida in the Mozambiquan capital Maputo. She has a master’s degree in education and has served as a researcher and as national director of primary education at the ministry of education. She was also a member of parliament. Her focus is on empowering women and the girl-child. She is one of the most prominent educationalists in Mozambique … (1000peacewomen 1/2).
She says: “I believe in education. If people have access to education, they can make a difference in their lives, Particularly women” … and: ““Children in Mozambique grow up in their mother tongue, which is the language of their community. Once they start going to school, the language of instruction is Portuguese, which they don’t understand at all. Entering school this way is a traumatic experience for our children” … and: “It was so difficult to convince the parents. They want their children to speak Portuguese as soon as possible, the language which is perceived as superior. Parents think that when their children speak the vernacular, they will remain as poor as they are.” Even the government was not supportive. “I was accused by people in the ministry that I wanted to delay the children’s development. But I just wanted to make it easier for the child.” … and: “I feel very frustrated in many aspects of my professional life. Most people in authority are not interested in changing things. But I think I am a fighter. I believe we can achieve lots of things in life by being honest, fighting for our ideals and not thinking of ourselves, but the next generation and the women. People deserve a better life.” (1000peacewomen).
Zaida Cabral – Mozambique
She works for the Danish International Development Agency DANIDA ActionAid.
Diaporama: GENDER EQUALITY AND EDUCATION IN MOZAMBIQUE.
Find her name on Google Book-search.
(1000peacewomen 2/2): … Those white papers with signs on it did not mean much to Teresa. The 30-year-old village woman had seen them regularly for years in her husband’s wallet. That was before she ever had the opportunity to go to school. But efforts were made by the government of Mozambique and international organisations to educate rural women, and Teresa managed to learn to read after she turned 30. As a result, her husband was in trouble. Teresa discovered that those papers she had found over the previous years were letters from her husband’s lover.
When Zaida Cabral narrates the story Teresa herself had told her, pride flickers in her eyes and a big smile forms on her lips. “Teresa realized that her husband had cheated on her for long. But as a literate woman, she was now able to make her own decisions”, Zaida comments. Her conviction is clear: “I believe in education. If people have access to education, they can make a difference in their lives. Particularly women.”
The 53-year-old mother of two grown sons knows what she is talking about. Her way to being one of the most prominent educationalists in Mozambique was one of struggle. Born in a poor Muslim family in the capital Maputo, she could only complete four years of primary education. It was not until she was 19 that she was able to further her studies by attending evening classes while working during the day. She got married, had two sons and had to keep on working as a secretary, librarian and accountant. At age 28, she began studying education science. In 1995, aged 44, Zaida obtained a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Stockholm in Sweden.
Education was not Zaida’s choice of career. But Mozambique had just gained independence from Portugal four years earlier in 1975, and the former colonial power had left the country with no infrastructure – and only seven per cent of the population was literate. With the new government came free education, and teachers were in high demand. Zaida’s first position was at the National Institute for Development of Education (INDE), where she worked as a researcher and later as the head of the research department. The main task she performed there was a study about the language of instruction in primary education.
It was only last year, 20 years after Zaida’s proposed bi-lingual approach which she had fought for became a national policy. Students are now taught in their vernacular during the first three years of schooling, and then switch slowly into Portuguese.
In 1993, Zaida joined the Ministry of Education as the National Director of Primary Education. “I didn’t feel qualified for this position”, she remembers, “but they insisted I am the right person. So I accepted.” For the first time in Mozambique’s history, a seminar specifically on girl’s education took place. It was Zaida’s initiative. She also designed a training course for teacher-trainees to sensitize them on gender and HIV. After two or three sessions, the programme failed because the ministry did not take it seriously. “The situation for girls is getting more and more difficult. We still have a huge deficit of teachers; some have to teach 100 kids per class. People are contracted as teachers without training or are just trained for a few days. The girls are harassed and abused by teachers, but the worst thing is that no one considers it a serious issue”, says Zaida.
When Zaida was elected as a Member of Parliament in 1995, which she describes as a magic moment in her life, she used this new opportunity to convince decision-makers in the government to take action and make laws to protect the girl-child. At the same time she continued working with communities as a freelance consultant, strengthening the civil society, linking gender issues with HIV/ AIDS.
In 2001, after leaving Parliament, Zaida became ActionAid’s Coordinator for Zambezia Province. “My task was to help poor communities to get access to education, water, sanitation and health, to get empowered. When you have women educated, when they can make a choice between three or eight children, when they have opportunities, they will look at life in a different way,” says Zaida.
In discussions, workshops and teaching sessions women got together and exchanged their experiences and difficulties. “Many women needed to learn how to use water and how to prevent diseases. Some did not know how to prepare balanced diets,” says Zaida. She narrates a story: “A certain woman in her forties was considered crazy in her village. Nobody respected her. Then she learned to read, and her life was turned around. Now she can read the Bible in church,” says Zaida.
In her current position as the National Education Advisor for the Danish NGO Danida, Zaida acts as a mediator between her employer and the Mozambique government on education issues. The Danish government supports the strategic plan for the education sector, to continue raising the literacy rate in Mozambique.
For more than 20 years, Zaida has lobbied consistently for the promotion of girls’ education and for access to education for all, particularly the rural poor. Zaida continues: “What I consider as an achievement is the fact I have reached a point where people acknowledge that I am a good professional in my area.” In her private life, she is glad to have a good relationship with her children and to have saved them from drug abuse.
Drinking the last sip of her green tea, she turns thoughtful: “My vision of the future is a world without severe poverty, which takes the dignity of people. I call it the ‘poverty of mentality’: People don’t respect themselves, therefore they don’t respect others. They think other people have to take care of them. And what is the reason? Lack of good education.” (1000peacewomen).