Wellesley Student Reflects on Her Time in Cape Verde’s Bela Vista

Aerial view of Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, located on Santiago island.
August 9, 2018

“How do the women of Bela Vista understand gender-based violence as an issue in their lives? How do they understand gender, as it applies to them? Do they see obvious, unchanging biological differences between men and women? Do they see a need for women to be liberated?”

These were some of the questions that Natália Marques ’19, a political science major, had at the start of her summer internship in the community of Bela Vista, located in Praia, Cape Verde. She collaborated with the University of Cabo Verde to conduct workshops on the topics of women’s empowerment and gender-based violence as a way to contribute to the end goal of including more women in the formal labor force.

Marques’ internship was made possible through a collaboration between the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and the Center for Research and Training in Gender and Family at the University of Cabo Verde (CIGEF), with funding from the Anchor Point Fellows Program at Wellesley College.

In a July 12 blog, Marques wrote:

“Many members of the community, notably the women, are employed in the informal sector. This means that the women that I pass by every day on my way to CIGEF, selling fruit, candy, or cigarettes on the sidewalk, might be from the community of Bela Vista, and might be the women who I end up working with closely.

Based on what I have learned so far, Bela Vista has been characterized as an underserved community. But there is always so much more to a place than it being “underserved”, and I am eager to learn more about Bela Vista’s people and their celebrations, pastimes, diversity, food, apart from only their struggles. I was very glad to visit Bela Vista’s community center last week, where I will be holding the workshops.

That being said, I also do want to focus on the struggles of the people of Bela Vista in a more productive way, as in, are there community leaders that are currently fighting for better conditions for the community? Who are they, and what exactly are they concentrating on?”

Read more about Marques’ experience on WCW’s Women Change Worlds blog.