Video Interview with Elisete Napoleao, entrepreneur and organizer.

When nearly 100 women came together at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro in March this year, Elisete Napoleao was one of them. As co-founder of the seamstress association Corte & Arte and resident of a squatter community in Rio, Elisete for over 15 years has played a part in the efforts to secure access to decent housing and public services, and to address systemic violence that continues to affect grassroots women in Rio de Janeiro and the world over. Together with organizers from 18 countries represented at the forum, she debated the successes and continuing challenges in the global strife for a more democratic city. Through this, she learned that her experience of struggle in Rio is but one in a tale of many cities and many women who have begun to organize to turn the tide.

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History of Corte Arte:
Created 15 years ago by 12 unemployed women from the community of Cantagalo, a slum in Ipanema, Corte & Arte has become a vital institution in the community, that brings together women to create cooperatives and increase their income generation opportunities. Due to high level of unemployment of the women working in the clothing industry during the 1980s that moved away from Copacabana, women came together to create job opportunities for themselves in their communities and enable them to also stay close to their families. Due to their involvement at the Community Center in Defense of Citizenship, two founders were introduced to cooperative models that helped them organize and found Corte & Arte where they produce a varied of sports clothing and have launched the brand name “ Favela Chic.” Their office is used as reference point for women in the communities to gather and participate in a variety of workshops they organize, including, sewing, embroidering, computer skills, and self-management. The women from Corte & Arte have also been involved in several other initiates in the community including the creation of the Community Radio of Cantagalo, today Radio Panorama; Pao & vida, a bakery; the Bakers Association, and the FAETEC-training school that offers computer and English lessons.

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