JÔ, MIRIAM AND RAÍSSA: Courageous women join forces

19/04/2019 – Fight for Peace’s Miriam, Raíssa and Jô are the three inspirational women behind the recently founded NGO Pra Elas. The newest project of it’s kind in Maré, Pra Elas focuses on the physical and mental wellbeing of women aged between 30 and 90 years old, using boxing, functional gymnastics, conversational groups and other training activities.

The three founders of the project, which recently completed Fight for Peace’s Maré United training programme, sat down with us to tell us more about their brainchild.

How did you come up with the idea of creating Pra Elas?

Raíssa: To be honest, I’ve always wanted to have a project that helps women learn how to defend themselves and as Miriam and Jô are also coaches, I had the idea of calling them to see what they thought. The first thing I said was: ‘and what if we helped older women, women from the ages of 30 to 90 years old, and who normally don’t get the opportunity to be part of most of the activities that we have here in Maré?’

Miriam: I remember Raíssa coming up to me out of nowhere to ask about how we go about organising a project. I turned around, looked at her and said: ‘are you serious?! Do you really want to, or are you just kidding with me?’ We thought about involving someone from wrestling but then we thought harder and realised that women weren’t really going to want to fight on the floor. Then we got thought again and Jô from muay thai came into our heads. Muay thai really attracts women. When we spoke to Jô, do you remember what she said?

Jô (laughing): Let’s do it!

Miriam: And this was how our story started!

And what is the importance of Pra Elas here in Maré?

Raíssa: First of all it’s a project that didn’t used to exist in Maré and that we were all missing. When we started the classes, we saw that it’s a vital project here for the women of Maré, because more than being positive for the mental health of our students, it also leads to the creation of friendships. Many of the participants come from other places and don’t know a lot of people, but they end up joining Pra Elas and getting to know another reality and new people. They learn about day to day things or maybe they discover a new activity that they like doing. This is how we work on these women’s self-esteem, just like they support the growth of our self-esteem here at Fight for Peace. We create a safe place where our members can learn more about their rights and we hope that they recognise our organisation as an embrace – because we want to embrace everyone!

Miriam: We choose to work with these women above the age of 29, because we understand that violence against them is common. Often they don’t have people to speak to, and this is why, as well as classes, we organise a lot of conversation groups. We want to open up these women’s minds. There are a lot of people who sometimes suffer from different types of violence, violence that isn’t just physical violence, you know? Our aim is to pass on everything that we have learnt and show another world to these women. Many of these women go through certain situations and keep it to themselves. It’s really rewarding to support women to get rid of this feeling. That’s what we want!

Jô: We want to give them what sport has given us, because the way that we see sport and life is completely different from before. We want to do exactly what sport has done for us. And not just sport, obviously, everything that Fight for Peace has given us we want to give to pass on too.

What objectives do you have for Pra Elas this year and in the future?

Jô: Our dream is to have our own space and to be able to help a large number of women. We also want a place where we can set up a crèche where children can be looked after while their mothers either train or get involved in personal development activities. But we know that the road is long until we reach this!

Raíssa: At the same time, our aim is to continue doing our classes, and attracting more and more participants.

Miriam: To achieve this we want to carry on doing open classes, because it is at these events that women get the chance to get to know and get involved in the project.

What do you think it is to have courage?

Miriam: A courageous person for me is someone who faces the obstacles in life and doesn’t fall at the first problem. A courageous woman is one that never gives up.

Raíssa: I think it’s exactly what Miriam said, it is not being scared of any difficulty, even if you fall flat on your face. Courage is not being scared to live.

And who are the examples of courageous people that inspire you?

Jô: For me, without doubt, it’s Fight for Peace’s Carol. Like I said, she’s a huge inspiration, I think for everyone, right?

Raíssa: I always remember my mum, Marielle, my granny, my aunts and also Rayanne, (a former member and Youth Councillor at Fight for Peace). I think that every woman is actually a courageous, but these are the woman that have inspired me.

Miriam: I think that they are all of those that you see here, working and battling. Courage is fighting every day to conquer your place in society. Examples of this are Raíssa and Jô!!