To celebrate Transgender Visibility Month, the MRI team in Brazil invited Andrea Brazil to share her story about how she started MRI's small business course in Rio de Janeiro and ended up being invited to join our team as an interviewer in the project monitoring and evaluation phase. Andrea is a trans activist, entrepreneur, stylist, hairdresser, make-up artist and president of local NGO Astra-Rio.
"When I saw the advert of the Micro Rainbow Brazil Project on the website of Grupo Arco Iris, I thought it could help my business a lot. I am a hairdresser (as well as an instructor), makeup artist, and I produce and sell clothes. However, I was distressed due to the economic and political crisis that was happening in my country. I was looking for help from the project to know what I was doing wrong, because the business I was running was not going well. Consequently, I was selected for their entrepreneurship course for low income LGBT people. In addition to helping me in what I was looking for, the course offered many benefits such as transportation and food. Besides that, our classes were only on Mondays, something that encouraged me even more since it would not interfere with my professional obligations."
"The project team, our teacher and our monitors were truly attentive and our class was particularly diverse regarding LGBT identities. I felt respected and I made many friends who I will care about always. Our training on management, financial education and entrepreneurship were incredible and made me discover new directions. But I went beyond. Something that is very characteristic about me is that I always want more. I want to broaden my horizons, to dare and to take risks. I consider myself a hardworking, determined and responsible person; I have technical training in administration and experience in several professional areas. So I asked for help and showed my interest in collaborating in any opportunity with the project, in any function. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to be part of the Micro Rainbow team as an interviewer in order to evaluate the project. Three trans people were invited to carry out this monitoring, but due to unforeseen circumstances, two of them could not continue and I took on all the work. This opportunity was everything that I wanted due to the crisis and the difficult situation that I was going through, and I decided that I would do my best."
Apprenticeship and challenges as an interviewer
"I thought that interviewing classmates would not be difficult. The biggest challenge for me would be to interview participants from previous classes who did not even know who I was. Another obstacle would be the availability of these people to attend the interview. But I was persistent, I tried my best to be considerate and understanding with all participants’ schedules, and I created tools and methodologies to do this work, such as doing the interview online via WhatsApp or by telephone. Thus, I had the privilege of being welcomed by almost 100% of those who volunteered to collaborate with the interview process. Some cases were very picturesque, such as… being in the middle of the interview via WhatsApp and the person left me waiting for a long time and, after much insistence, we returned to the interview; some said to me "send it to me by e-mail and I will answer", others scheduled a meeting and never showed up, not even answered my phone calls! Others said "answer the best way you think"! But for the most part, the answers were positive, I made new friends, experienced the sufferings of some who are still in social vulnerability, and I also had the pleasure of hearing cases of victory and success."
Perceptions on the experience
"I can reveal that the number of former students who were going through extreme financial difficulties have reduced and a large number of participants are still trying to take their projects further. I am included as one of the latter! And a reasonable number of participants are progressing to a comfortable situation, even though our country is facing a political and economic crisis.
I have astonished the Micro Rainbow project team with my performance and achievements in conducting the interviews all by myself. I carried out around 90 interviews in a short period of time (2 months), considering all the difficulties on trying to obtain feedback from the participants. I felt valued and even proud of myself. I felt great solidarity from the project in giving me this opportunity to work and all I wanted was to repay with a job well done. And I believe I have done that. This experience gave me several project, work and life companions who I want to take with me forever.
I would like to emphasize that the Micro Rainbow Brazil Project has provided me with a great dose of self belief and, especially, in my potential as an entrepreneurial and professional travesti in all the areas that my talents allow me. I really do hope to work other times with Micro Rainbow!
My sincere and everlasting thanks to all staff for this project and its opportunities."
Translated by: Diego Bielinski
For more information about MRI's work in Brazil please contact MRI's Project Manager.