From where I stand: “We can break barriers and provide a better future for ourselves and our families”

Gabriela Avila migrated from Venezuela to Brazil two-and-a-half years ago in the hope of offering her 6-year-old daughter better living conditions. When they arrived in Boa Vista, the capital of the Brazilian border state of Roraima, they lived on the streets until Avila found a job as a kitchen assistant and could afford paying rent. Having overcome many challenges, she now works with other refugees and migrants from Venezuela.


Gabriela Avila poses for a photo. Photo: Felipe Abreu
Gabriela Avila. Photo: Felipe Abreu


I have always believed in my capacity to achieve my goals, even when they seemed impossible.

I was drowning in debt, just to afford basic stuff that my kids needed, but I had to have the courage to use the money we received from the financial aid to create more sustainable conditions for us. My husband was a cook in Venezuela, and I studied Public Accounting and worked as a Sales Manager in my country. So, we put a pair of tables in front of our house, bought cups, plates, cutlery and the first ingredients to start a small restaurant. As we didn’t have money for decoration, I asked my husband to look for disposed materials that we could reuse to decorate the space. 

When UN Women learned about my story, they invited me to facilitate a series of workshops for other migrant and refugee women that had received financial aid. I was really happy to be part of these workshops. We cannot keep our knowledge to ourselves; we must pass it along.

I am an independent woman and never allowed a man to control my finances. I believe that decisions have to be equally shared between a couple. When I talk to other women, I raise their awareness about the importance of building their independence and investing in their own development and growth.

I teach them to create strategies to save and invest their money, so they don’t need to rely on social assistance in the future. I show them how to take note of every cent they spend and to observe how much of their resources are being wasted on superfluous choices. A candy costs 1 Brazilian Real [less than 25 cents], which may seem like very little money. However, if they decide not to buy a candy every day, by the end of the month they would have saved 30 Reals, and this would allow them to pay their water bill. I also tell them about the importance of saving part of the money for emergencies and investing part of it in something to make sure they don’t depend on their husbands or their children when they are old, or even on the Government.

Throughout history, we, as women, were limited by society. We have been told that we couldn’t do certain things. However, the reality is that women have responsibility, professionalism, attitude and the total capacity to do anything – even in areas that have been dominated by men. We can break barriers and provide a better future for ourselves and our families.”

SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10: Reduced inequalities

Gabriela Avila, 33, is a Venezuelan migrant living in Roraima, Brazil, who facilitated workshops organized by UN Women on how migrant and refugee women can best use financial aid to build their autonomy. The project was funded bythe UN Central Emergency Response Fund to address the specific needs and vulnerabilities of migrant and refugee women.