brazil: focus on maria henriquetta homrich
Maria Henriquetta has lived a long and rich life. She has a degree in Botany and was the first Brazilian woman to become Head of the Faculty of Natural History at the prestigious Universidade do Rio Grande do Sul. After her retirement, she was persuaded by a friend to become chair of NAT.
“What interests me about NAT is that it started out as a feminist organization, supporting poor women and their families. Nowadays NAT also works on environmental issues.” She says.
Love of nature
Maria's wants people to see beyond the images of carnival, samba and beautiful people that most people conjure up when thinking about Brazil.
“The greatest beauty of our country, in my opinion, is nature: the extensive Amazonian rainforest, the endless rivers, the waterfalls, the birds and plants, the biodiversity. I feel an enormous love for nature.”
The role of women
The status of women in Brazilian society has moved on - but not enough.
“Women in Brazil still do not have equal opportunities. At the University of Porto Alegre we had a female rector, but in general there are very few women who stand out with such a job. Many women are employed in the social sector. But although this kind of work has produced important steps forward, for example in the fight against cancer or for the rights of street children, this work is barely valued by men.
"But the position of women is gradually improving. Women are getting increasingly involved in politics and in the economic sector. Although I wish it would proceed a bit faster.”
The long term
“I would like to change the mentality of the Brazilian politicians. Instead of just focusing on economic interests, they should look more at what nature has to offer us. In general, Brazilian politicians are mostly focused on immediate results. Long-term planning is not their strength.”
“Nature in Brazil is sacrificed for short-term economic gain, and simply something has to be done to protect it. Not for myself, because I am already quite old, but for my children, and their children. I am strongly convinced that we have to do something to stop the complete destruction of everything that our ancestors left behind. We have to pass this world on to our descendants. Let’s try to do that in the best possible way.”