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In partnership with Pond’s, the VVLead Fellowship brings together global women leaders of social change to advance and amplify their work through collaboration, visibility, and training. Since meeting in June, our VVLead fellows have been making amazing partnerships happen around the world. This blog series highlights their achievements and the power of the Vital Voices network.

Sylvia Guimarães is the President of the Vaga Lume Association, which develops education, culture, and environmental projects in the Brazilian Legal Amazon region through volunteer work in 23 municipalities.

Gabriela Martinez Sainz is the Co-Founder and Director of The Centre for Human Rights Studies (CEDH Mx), an independent not-for-profit think-tank based in Mexico. CEDH Mx working to combat all forms of violence and discrimination, advance social justice, and strengthen the respect for human rights, equity and diversity through research-led and evidence- based innovative projects. 

After our VVLead Kickoff Summit in June 2017, Gaby traveled to see Sylvia in Brazil to brainstorm opportunities to collaborate, and Sylvia invited Gaby to be a trainer and speaker at the Vaga Lume Annual Congress – a four-day immersive event held at the end of August in Sao Paulo.

The event gathered 48 volunteers from across the Amazon to engage and train as community literacy mediators. Volunteers shared best practices on community development, listened to lectures, and participated in discussions about early childhood reading, child empowerment, monitoring and evaluation, and planning.

Gaby helped Sylvia in the development of the workshops and training sessions. She also led educators and media literacy facilitators in exercises about organizational purpose and goals and fostered discussions on how to empower children and create new spaces for them in the community libraries.

“Gaby immediately understood the purpose of the event and challenged me with the possibility of engaging our volunteers in deeper discussions,” said Sylvia. “I was impressed by her ability to listen to us and jump into our process with new simple suggestions for collaborative learning in order to better connect with our volunteers. Gaby’s expertise was crucial for me during this training!”

“This experience was particularly inspiring for me because I got to see Sylvia ‘in action,’” said Gaby. “She led her organization

by setting an example of the values they hold. Being able to see her connect with the volunteers and watching her inspire her team throughout the Congress made it clear to me that Sylvia actively creates an environment for the volunteers to talk about their passion for the organization’s purpose and the happiness it brings to them empower children and communities through literacy. I am truly fascinated with their work bringing libraries to the Amazon!”

We are so proud that VVLead could bring together these incredible community leaders, who show us the power of the VV network.

“Without VVLead, the two of us never would have met and we would not have been able to use the information and tales of our time with Vital Voices – even Kathleen’s HEDGEHOG fable – to connect with the Vaga Lume volunteers at this year’s annual conference! We both loved having one another at our side during this event to lend a hand and craft a strong but sweet presence for the group and we are excited to see what comes of this partnership going forward.”

A big thanks to our partners at Pond’s, who encourage our fellows to lead through collaboration. As Gaby notes, “collaboration is the only way to create knowledge powerful enough to change the world.”


Authored by: Emily Goodman (Staff), Sylvia Guimarães (VVLead Fellow), Gabriela Martínez Sainz (VVLead Fellow)