- In 1996 women represented 40.4% of the economically active population;
- Yet their average salaries did not exceed 54.5% of the men's salaries.
- The percentage of women over 11 years-old who went to school had grown by 16.4%;o Yet 22.8% of Brazilian women over 15 years-old are still illiterate;
- A quota system makes it mandatory for political parties to include at least 20% of women in their lists;
Yet , in the year 2000, the percentage of women in government is still negligible;
- In the Executive Power, there are 5.49% of women governors and mayors.;
- In the Legislative Power, 11.21% of city council members are women, 10.01% are state congresswomen, 5.65% are federal congresswomen and 7.41% are Senators. (MALHEIROS MIGUEL, Sônia. A política de cotas por sexo. Brasília. CFEMEA, 2000).
- The number of families headed by women has grown from 18.2% in 1985 to 22.9% in 1996.
- From the 30 millions of Brazilians living under the poverty line probably 23% are part of single-parent families headed by women.
amílias chefiadas por mulheres;


The use of participative methodologies in working with women suggests the possibility of combining a gender approach to Paulo Freire's emancipation ideas. Thus, the studies called Feminist Popular Education will open the path for the use of female community work. In addition, they also legitimate women's power and enable the group to generate its own development.

We therefore understand empowerment as "a process through which women increase the capacity to shape their own lives and environments; it represents an improvement in women's awareness of themselves and their status, as well as their efficacy at social interactions".

When there is the intention of helping women to make their own decisions, some fundamental aspects should be considered:

"1. The empowerment of women, regardless of their origin, i.e., if they come from underprivileged classes or not, must necessarily undergo a gender perspective, taking into consideration the men-women hierarchical aspects which exist in their cultural traditions (D'Ávila Neto, Pires);

2. Therefore, women's empowerment must begin from inside out, from the bottom up, in a training process that fosters emancipation awareness (Freire, Maria Mies, Stromquist);

3. The training of groups in order to empower women should contemplate four complementary aspects:

the cognitive, the psychological, the economical and the political (Stromquist).

(D’Ávila Neto, Pires, 1998: 20)


1) "SCHULER, Margaret. Los derechos de las mujeres son derechos humanos: la agenda internacional del empoderamiento. In: LEÓN, Magdalena. Poder y empoderamiento de las mujeres. Santafé de Bogotá: Tercer Mundo y UN Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, 1997, p.31"

2) "D'ÁVILA NETO, Maria Inácia, PIRES, Cíntia. Empoderamento: uma questão atual no projeto de eqüidade de gênero no Brasil. Arquivos Brasileiros de Psicologia. n.8-out./dez. 1998, p.10. (Vers. D'ÁVILA NETO, Maria Inácia, SIMÕES PIRES, Cíntia. Empowerment or powersharing? Considerations on the project of gender equity in Brazil. In: KEARNEY, Marie-Louise. Women, power, and the academy: from rhetoric to reality. New York: Berghahn Books, 2001.)"