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Miriam Medina: Saving girls from a life of violence

· Social Impact Invest

For a while now I've been impressed by the development of the Cape Verdean tech & start-up scene. I was interested in hearing a few stories, and wanted to understand both the motivation and challenges. In this series of interviews I'm speaking to young (start-up) entrepreneurs in Cape Verde. Despite challenging circumstances they are able to discover solutions and bring these to the market. Products that can create a better society. This is part 10:

I started this series of interviews because I wanted to know more about young Cape Verdean entrepreneurs, especially those active in the tech & startup scene. By following different social media accounts I could see the interesting ideas and products these gifted people were creating and developing.

When I decided that Sonvela's future was in focusing on Cape Verde's problems and not the results of those same issues, I understood that this group of people has the capacity for that. In many cases their ideas are the result of a situation they face themselves, or friends and family. The products they create are their response to a problem.

By using the same frameworks on issues within health care, unemployment and the housing market we can work towards a future in which we can produce solutions for the most ciritcal problems in our country. Solutions that don't depend on whatever political party is in power, and the priorities they have.

Solutions from and of the private sector can be developed with the long-term in mind. The problems mentioned above are fairly common issues, and we see them in almost every country. However, there is another topic which concerns me today, while it was not someting I was aware of in the same way a few months back.

My conversation with Zandir Santos of a few weeks ago was the most controversial and most read out of the entire series. This probably has to do with the fact that he was able to clearly address the problem, and the consequences of it. Understanding what drives the (high) unemployment rate of Cape Verdean youth, and the influence of it when it comes to their mentality, was crucial to the series.

In this case, it was important to understand another large problem. For this, I spoke to Miriam Medina, author of the book 'Se é amor não causa dor'. If it's love it shouldn't hurt.

Miriam Medina is an incredibly energetic and creative person. She is the creator of the beautiful Mon na Roda project, an initiative that teaches people in wheel chaires to dance and even participate in (international) events. She also runs a Facebook page called Sem Tabus. People who want to share a story can send them in, and she posts these anonimosly.

She's currently working on a new project called the Banco do Tempo.

Miriam, you recently released the book 'Se é amor não causa dor'.

Why did you decide to write this book?

“I had a friend who was in a violent relationship. But it was something that was rarely spoken about. The term VBG is used in situations of domestic violence, but nobody spoke about violence in relationships. It was a taboo, there was no term called 'violencia no namoro'. I decided that it was time we do something about it, so I sent an e-mail to a few mayors.”

“As a result of the e-mails we organised a couple of lectures at different schools across the country. We'd give people a chance to speak up during the lectures, but we would also give them this opportunity afterwords. All the sad stories I've heard have resulted in this book.”

Where does this come from? What do you think is causing this violence?

“In most cases it's girls between 13 and 16 who are the victims. A lot of times, they've witnessed this kind of behavior at home, with a mother and (step)father. They grow up thinking it's a normal thing. Without the safe environment of a healthy family you see girls gowing into prostitution and turning to alcohol. A cry for help.”

“What happens at home is very important, but schools have a responsibility as well. A lof of things happen in and around schools, and so teachers have a duty to know what's happening. It's obvious we have many issues in our society. How can a 16-year old be so cruel he regularly abuses his girlfriend?”

“I've chosen to write a simple book, easy to read. It doesn't have too many pages, so that we don't scare people off from reading it, which is why it's cheaper than most other books. It's so incredibly sad, but if I wanted, I could've written 1000 pages. I had more than enough stories.”

“Today, there are a few things that are different. It's become normal to get girls to send nude pictures and video's, as a way to prove themselves towards boys. These 'nudes' are then used to threathen girls with, and this prevents them from going to the police.”

What needs to happen for this to change?

“We need to teach our girls about self-love. I've seen so many intelligente girls who choose to be with a boyfriend who completely destroys them. Or women who make more money than their man, but who still choose to stay together, even though they are being abused. Because they feel that they need a man in their life, and they can't live alone.”

“But why be with a man who doesn't give you anything? A relationship with a partner who supports you can help you a lot, and is definitely an important part of your life. But without support and respect, it makes no sense at all to stay with someone.”

“What is missing is confidence. Confidence in our own abilities. Women can do anything, but most don't really believe that. Upbringing and education need to change, both with boys and girls, if we want to make changes.”

“When it comes to politics, it's very important that we look at the current judicial system. Girls and women feel unsafe because of a lack of justice and protection. In so many cases they face even more abuse when a partner or ex-partner finds out they went to the police.”

“Fortunately there is an institution such as ICIEG, which offers protection through the 'Casas de Apoio'. Girls and women can be offered a safe place to stay thanks to this project.”

Let's talk about tech for a bit. What can you tell me about 'Banco do Tempo'?

“I'm not a very technical person, but it's obvious how many benefits technology has. It's getting so easy to spread ideas and products nowadays. We're always connected with eachother, and the world has become a lot smaller thanks to technology.”

“It allows me to spread my message to so many people at the same time. I can see that in all the messages I receive from girls who tell me how I've inspired them with my work. With Banco do Tempo I wanted to bring all the benefits of technology together to create a special kind of service platform.”

“The platform is different from what we currently know. It allows you to exchange services on the platform, so there is no payment necessary. When you visit the platform, you can find a service you need, and in exchange for that service you can offer someone a service yourself.”

“Here's an example: Say your a painter, and you offer your services thorugh the platform. This give you the opportunity to take some English lessons in exchange for carrying out the services that you offer. Of course when 'matching' services we take the value of it into consideration.”

“I've seen that this system works very well in a few different countries. So why not in our country? I'm convinced that everyone has his of her own talent, and this platform offers a unique opportunity to use that talent and get it front of a public.”

“The idea was mine, but developing it has been a team effort. A programmer, designer, marketer and a lawyer. All people from my own network, people I consider to be my friends. I feel lukcy for the chance to work together with them, I see it as a real 'All Star team'.”

Where do you get the energy for all these projects?

“I love working on different projects. Especially when I know I'm working on projects that can possibly change and better people's lives. It gives me such a good feeling. Writing the book was something I mostly did in the middle of the night, because I have trouble sleeping.”

“Of course I go through difficult times as well, just like anybody else. But I'm fortunate to not have to do things all by myself. I have a lot of support from friends and family.”

Read all the other interviews here: