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Dishing Out Change
Excerpt from New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams

by Emma Sokoloff-Rubin

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Did you know that for women in Brazil, going to Brasilia, Brazil's capital, and marching for women's rights is easier than making your husband do the dishes? Sometimes, changing big things like laws is easier than changing the way people think about women. I realized this when my family and I had dinner with three leaders of the women's movement in Brazil. When my dad wanted to help wash dishes, the men said: "Don't do that. Then the women will expect us to."

* * *

My name is Emma. When I was 12, I lived in Porto Alegre, Brazil. My dad, a Latin American Studies professor, was researching social movements in Brazil. One of those movements is El Movimiento de Mulheres Trabalhadoras Rurais, or The Rural Women Workers' Movement. Women created this movement to improve their lives, and rural women of all ages and experiences are part of it.
My family and I traveled to the interior of Rio Grande Do Sul, where the movement is centered. We stayed with the leaders and attended meetings-one was an international women's day celebration, another a two-day discussion group.

During the discussion group, women vented their frustration over being completely responsible for running their households smoothly, even though they also work in the fields and outside the home. They vowed to talk to their families about sharing housework equally. They want their children to grow up in households that respect family members' individuality, so gender barriers and stereotypes will break down.

The movement fought to get maternity leave for women and convinced the government to give women retirement money. This is important because, without income, older women had to depend completely on their husbands. With their own money, women can make decisions about how to lead their own lives.

But even after the movement won these rights, many women in rural areas still didn't get them. They also went without basic services like health care. They didn't have birth certificates or other proof of their identity, so they couldn't have rights. Without these documents, the government didn't even consider these women people! So the movement helped women get identity cards-and the right to have rights.

Ordinary people make change. The women in this movement aren't professionals who have a lot of education. Most of them work very hard and still face sexism. But with help from churches, unions, and political parties, they've learned to be activists: people with devotion and goals who've removed the word "can't" from their vocabulary. When you're in a room with these hopeful women, you realize how much the world needs activists-and that anyone can be one. You feel a sense of power. Little by little, these women are changing things. They celebrate each small achievement and know that each step moves them closer to the life they hope and work for.

maternity leave: a woman's time off from her job after she has a new baby
rural: outside of the city or in the country
union: a group of workers joined together to claim their rights

About New Moon Girl Media
Since 1992, New Moon has given girls ages 8-12 a place to create their own media and share it with the world. A champion of girl-centered content with New Moon Girls magazine and the groundbreaking online community www.newmoon.com, NM pioneers innovative, ad-free communities where girls develop their full potential in safe, creative and positive worlds. NM is the expert in original, high-quality content made by girls and selected by their peers. Learn more at www.newmoon.com

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