Barbara Panseri is the coordinator of education at the Lemann Foundation and has stood for election as a councilor in Brazil. She is president of the environmental organization Ecotrabalhismo and member of the Political Action Network for Sustainability (RAPS). She is also a member of our New Voices Council.
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How would you describe your political path?
My political path is at its beginning. I was a candidate for councilor in the City of São Paulo, the largest city in the country, in a very disputed election. I didn't get elected, but I really enjoyed the experience and I want to run for the legislature again. I wasn’t a candidate in the 2022 election, because I’m focused on my professional trajectory and seeking financial stability. I’m very engaged in my work as a public education coordinator at a philanthropic foundation. Any political path is challenging, but in Brazil even more so. Women who do not come from well-resourced families cannot self-finance their electoral campaigns.
What are the most useful lessons you've learnt on the way?
In Brazil, it doesn't matter what a hopeful parliamentarian’s proposals are or which projects they defend. Most people decide their vote for symbolic reasons like representation and political party or because a candidate is famous through TV, music or social networks. It's not worth putting much energy into detailing your proposals before the campaign. In addition, a great learning is that a political path takes time and work. It is very important to have a group of people who believe in your ideas and in the strength of your leadership.
“It is very important to have a group of people who believe in your ideas and in the strength of your leadership.”
What are the top three things that could be done to get courageous, ethical and trusted politicians in your area?
The most important is to provide political education from basic education. A teenager who understands that life is political understands that politics decides everything in society and will consider the political path as an option. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of current politicians and political parties to spread ethical and democratic values, telling the story of inspiring political leaders in contrast to the widespread view that politicians are corrupt.
This 2000 article by Brazil’s Rubem Alves explores the narrative dispute between politicians by vocation who want to build a garden for everyone and professional politicians only interested in the power and money that comes from the role. I recommend translating it into English and reading.
What ideas and/or people are inspiring you at the moment?
My top inspiration at the moment is Lula: the Brazilian president who has just been elected after four years of an anti-democratic and ultra-right government. Although I’m not a staunch supporter of everything that Lula and the Workers' Party represent, I recognize the important advances that we have made under their governments and I admire their courage to face the ultra-right and build a winning coalition uniting leaders of the left and the social democratic right. Secondly, I am inspired daily by hundreds of elected feminist women who occupy positions in the Legislative and Executive and fight for politics to be a less sexist space.
What story do you want communities to tell about politicians?
That the political vocation is the noblest, since it is the politician who fights for collective dreams and it is the politician who decides on public policies that affect the lives of all citizens.
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