Sense of belonging

Riselia Bezerra. Picture: SUPPLIED

WHAT Dr Riselia Bezerra found similar between her country, Brazil and Fiji is the presence of cassava or tapioca.

When she visited Fiji last week, she took a day out to explore Suva and what struck her was the cassava cakes that were sold in abundance in the market and at coffee shops.

While local markets sold it as cakes, her country has far more uses for it.

“We make pancakes, bread, flour, sauces, and even snack savoury from cassava. There are shops that just sell everything made from this root crop, so you should explore more about its use,” she shares.

“But I just loved the cassava cakes you have here, its lovely!’

Dr Bezerra is an international development expert.

She has more than 17 years experience in applied research and provides advisory services on development issues.

Some of her work includes evaluating multilateral and bilateral organisations, NGOs and governments.

She was in Fiji to discuss development work with the Fiji Government. While she chose not to speak about this work, she was more than forthcoming about her experience in Fiji.

“What I experienced while taking a walk through your city was the sense of friendliness among Fijians,” she said.

“I had a sense of belonging — you have a very interactive society which I don’t often experience in other countries.

“One thing I liked here is I didn’t see much poverty. It may be from a little bit of ignorance or limited perspective, but I have seen worse poverty in other developing nations.

“What I see here is different. I think this is good because most societies have the chance to eliminate poverty. You have a very beautiful country.”

Dr Bezerra’s work has taken her to 38 countries around the world — including living and working in five countries.

She hails from Bahia, one of the 26 states of Brazil located in the northeastern part of the country.

“Brazil is a federated country like the US where you have a national government then you have the states and each state has a capital, so I’m from the state of Bahia, the city I lived in was Salvador one of the oldest cities in Brazil,” she says.

“I studied in the US and worked internationally for many years. I have a Bachelor in Business, Masters in Economics then a PhD.

“My doctorate studies is focused on power relations, but from a perspective of resistance coming from minorities in the country — how to increase your visibility of power in a society.

“So my PhD was about national identity formation, but from popular perspective especially for a group that’s been discriminated.

“I briefly stayed in Brazil where I worked with policy with municipal governments and what we were doing was consolidate federal grants with municipal grants for the poorer sectors of the population in the municipality.”

And as she explored the city of Suva during her one week stay, Dr Bezerra says she is encouraged by the kindness and friendliness of the people she’s met.

“You know we have a lot to learn from each other, if humans are kinder to each other then we have hope for a better life.”

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