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Diaspora voices  
February 3, 2023
Brazil, youth engagement and inclusion: Laila Tasmia welcomes new intern Carolina Lopes

In January we welcomed the newest member of the EUDiF team: for the next five months Carolina Lopes joins us on our diaspora youth internship programme. Carolina is Brazilian and is in the final year of her master’s in Cooperation and development in Latin America at the Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle University, as an Eiffel excellence programme scholar. Carolina joins Laila Tasmia on the internship, but this is not the first time they have met, so the two sat down virtually to catch up and exchange on expectations and Carolina’s journey to EUDiF…

Laila: Hello Carolina! Great to see you again and a warm welcome to the EUDiF! What was your motivation for joining this internship and how are you feeling at the start of it?

Carolina: Thank you, Laila. I am very excited about joining the project as diaspora engagement is a new subject for me, although I have some familiarity with it. Actually, I have considered myself a researcher in migration since 2020, when I did my specialisation in public policy and gender justice at the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO) and started to engage in the theme more transversally with a strong gender and social protection angle. However, my motivation for joining the EUDiF team started first on LinkedIn and then at the Seventh European Migration Forum (EMF) in 2022, in Brussels. I had seen information about EUDiF on social media and found it interesting, particularly because it encourages young people from diasporas to engage not only in development, but also to be inserted in the European labour market, which signals an appreciation of our skills and experiences as migrants. Furthermore, I was able to meet some of the EUDiF team at the EMF, when Aurélie Sgro, Charlotte Griffiths and a group of former interns were very enthusiastic in presenting the project as a way to engage diasporas in development initiatives, which made me very excited to further explore this area.

What a nice first impression of EUDiF! There is no fixed definition of diaspora; EUDiF emphasises maintaining links with heritage countries and willingness to contribute to development. Do you identify yourself as diaspora in this way? Living in France, how do you maintain a connection with your home country, or with other Brazilians in France?

Sometimes I find myself in a conflict in understanding myself as part of the diaspora whilst being an international student. However, I feel that since I arrived two and a half years ago, I have been getting closer and closer to Brazilian culture. I usually say that I discovered myself as a Brazilian living abroad, since in a country of continental dimensions like Brazil, we feel closer affinity to our region or neighbourhood than to our own nationality. Now, I keep the connection with my country by participating in Brazilian women networks, in my capoeira group (a Brazilian type of martial art with music that is an important part of cultural heritage), I also have been engaged with an association of researchers on Brazil in Europe (ARBRE) predominantly driven by the Brazilian diaspora, and by taking part in cultural events organised by diasporans and groups of Brazilian researchers.

You’re right! I also feel the same growing connection to my Bangladeshi heritage now I am living in the diaspora in Europe. What do you think makes the Brazilian diaspora interesting?

First of all, it is important to highlight that in Brazil we do not usually use the term “diaspora”, but rather “Brazilians living abroad.” It is mostly concentrated in European countries, especially Portugal, followed by Italy and Spain, due to colonial influences. However, it is a diaspora that for a long time was not active in terms of engagement for development. For many, leaving the country to live abroad is a new beginning, an attempt to leave a reality of limited quality of life and unemployment, which leads many to disconnect from their national identity. However, in the last four years this panorama has changed a lot due to the political issues in Brazil and many diasporic initiatives have been created to discuss democracy, climate change and resistance, as well as to transfer academic knowledge on politics and fake news to Brazilian universities. I am optimistic that the diasporic engagement of Brazilians living abroad is increasing and I encourage everyone to check the EUDiF factsheet on Brazil for more information.  

Before this, we met on a Migrant Youth Leadership Program by the Center for Migration, Gender and Justice (CMGJ). So now you have been involved in EU policymaking as a young person with a migration background through a few different programmes – how and why is this important to support such things?

Yes, and I feel very excited to be able to engage with you again in a migrant leadership initiative. During my research about the absence of policies regarding MDWs in Portugal (where most of them are Brazilian diaspora), I realised how important it is that migrants, especially young people, analyse public policies. At the EMF it was great to meet other young people – including EUDiF alumni! – with the same view: it is impossible to think about policymaking without considering and involving future generations. For the first time at an international forum, I felt heard. European officials and policymakers were really listening to my stories, and I am sure that these exchanges reach the ears of decision-makers. What we lack are platforms and access for more of this, and I see the EUDiF internship as a springboard for our influence as young migrants.

The CMGJ fellowship was a great experience and I am happy to see you continue your journey. You are also involved in a youth-led organisation in France where many members are migrants (and/or diaspora). What different roles do you play in this organisation, and what would you like the EUDiF and other supporting organisations to know about how to work with organisations like yours?

Yes, you are right. I am member of ARBRE which seeks to create, manage and transfer knowledge produced in Europe about Brazil, especially in the social and political sciences and economics. ARBRE does lectures, workshops, conferences, newsletters and even some articles for diffusion among researchers on the France-Brazil axis. The membership and this kind of activity means it is recognised as a diaspora organisation, although it does not call itself that – as I said before, the term “diaspora” is not yet widely used in the Brazilian context. I believe that activities like this are more common than we realise and should be enhanced by initiatives like EUDiF, since the transfer of knowledge and skills is a catalyst for education in the country of origin and increases the credibility of diaspora researchers.

You are starting to be involved in the different parts of EUDiF, from capacity development to preparing the next Future Forum. What do you most hope to get out of the next five months in the internship?

Due to the diversity of activities and tasks, I hope to acquire solid and interdisciplinary experience in terms of project management, planning and implementation of capacity development actions, monitoring and evaluation, and a deep understanding of migration and diasporas issues in the European context. Furthermore, I hope to share my skills from past experiences with this diverse and open team, always seeking to help the facility grow and empower diaspora initiatives.

Well as a colleague and friend of yours, I am sure your practical knowledge of policy advocacy, as well as your networks and expertise will benefit EUDiF, and I can’t wait to work on some of these things with you!

“Gender Justice Beyond Borders” Migrant Youth Leadership Program (MLYP) is promoted by the Center for Migration, Gender and Justice (CMGJ) and funded by the European Network Against Racism. Its main objective is to bring together migrant youth for collective action and research at the intersection of migration and gender. In the 2022 cohort which Carolina and Laila were part of, the MYLP focused on migrant domestic workers in Europe within the framework of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention C190 on harassment and violence in the world of work.

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