My name is Bruna, I come from a privileged background in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Although I personally have never suffered any type of domestic, sexual or emotional abuse, Brazil is an extremely sexist country, where misogyny is rife and there are high rates of rape and femicide.
For this reason, when I came to study in Ireland, I decided to help women who have experienced this type of abuse. I now volunteer with the community domestic violence service, Lifeline in Inishowen.
When I first arrived here I spoke no English, didn’t know anyone and had no friends here. Since then, I have worked hard on learning the language and have found a job that has helped me practice English daily, developing the communicative skills I express through Portuguese.
Travel has widened my learning and helped me to link these skills with my passion for new cultures and my ongoing studies in anthropology. These experiences, combined with my volunteer work and studies around women, have helped me realise that women face similar difficulties throughout the world, including Ireland.
Another issue I’ve become interested in is personal identity. My Nigerian friend, who has lived in Dublin since childhood, felt that declaring her identity as a black woman was important, as in Ireland only 1.42 percent of the population self-identify as black.
One day my friend and I were watching videos of Brazilian ‘Funk’ artists and we began discussing the racial diversity and range of skin colours in Brazil.
My friend asked: “Bruna, no one is totally black, or totally white. Is it difficult for Brazilians to understand their own identity?”
As an average, white, middle-class woman, I had never questioned my identity. However, this conversation and my time in Ireland has caused me to ponder where I come from, who I am and who I want to be. Here are some answers:
1. I grew up in a country with extreme social inequality, poverty and insufficient state services but I was lucky to be born into a privileged family which was full of love, affection and understanding. So, this is where I come from.
2. I am interested in sustainability, the environment and holistic living. Satish Kumar, an Indian activist and editor/director of ecology studies (Schumacher College), inspired me to answer another question about my identity. He said “in the modern world, we humans are called consumers. But we are not consumers, we are makers. Without making, if we consume we are stealing.”
I think when you are born into a privileged background, you can either choose to accept the status quo or use your position to change it. I choose to change it. I choose to be a maker, this is who I am.
3. Mahatma Gandhi inspired me to answer the third question: who I want to be. Gandhi said: "Be the change you want in the world". I don't want my actions to be influenced by the world, I want to influence the world with my actions and make the world a better place for future generations of women.
According to UN studies one in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence worldwide. I recognise that I’ve been one of the lucky ones and that's why I volunteer to work with women, and why my current studies and projects are around the welfare of women.
I want to look back knowing I was one of those responsible for a world with fewer inequalities. This is who I want to be.
Since arriving in this country, Irish people have welcomed me with open arms. Though the language and foreign status were social barriers for me, I have met very generous people here and have made new friends.
I would like to continue to contribute to the growth of Ireland, as it has contributed to mine.