Francimar Fernandes


This profile was prepared when Francimar Fernandes was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Descendants of black slaves, called “Quilombolas”, while achieving freedom, have initially established themselves in places of little economic value and that are difficult to access, where they live until today in a situation of exclusion. Even though Brazil’s Federal Constitution recognizes the State’s duties to this group and that there is a strong Quilombola movement in some regions of the country, many communities remain unidentified, are not knowledgeable about their rights, nor do they identify themselves as Quilombolas. Thus, Francimar created AACADE - Association of Support for Settlements and African Descent Communities in 2004 to identify ‘Quilombola’ communities that are invisible to the State. The organization supports them in rescuing their group identity, helps them gain access to basic rights and empowers them to become leading figures in their own lives - politically, socially and economically.

Francimar identifies Quilombola communities that were previously unknown by the State. She recovers their common history, strengthens their leadership and supports them to organize themselves internally by exchanging knowledge and practices with other Quilombola communities, so that they can start to actively and collectively seek their rights from the government. This local organization gave birth to CECNEQ, the State Coordination of Quilombola Communities, which currently includes representatives in national movements. Francimar’s work is intended to strengthen the autonomy of Quilombola communities. For the families’ long term financial sustainability, Francimar stimulates local entrepreneurship by partnering with experts to teach improved production techniques and support families in selling their products to the government or neighboring towns. The work of collectively building identity as a Quilombola community aims to recover cultural aspects through stories of both struggle and achievement. Today, these communities share their identity with pride. The collective self-esteem strengthened by this process breaks the shyness and sense of shame of their social and racial condition, and in turn transforms the communities’ external social relations. The now empowered Quilombolas become an integral part of their quest for rights until they get to the process of titling the property in which they live.

Francimar has expanded her work throughout Paraíba. She was able to map 39 geographically isolated and previously invisible communities and connect them both with one another and the government. Now, many of these communities are seeking access to public policies and basic rights autonomously. They are developing income-generation activities coordinated in the state network and then articulated throughout other states. Francimar is strengthening this work within all 39 communities, to create the possibility of community mapping to begin in the other states and territories of Brazil that continue to house unknown Quilombola communities.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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