• These women work more than 12 hours a day for very little. Working with Habitat for Humanity, we’re building them homes.
    © Habitat for Humanity
  • © Habitat for Humanity
  • © Habitat for Humanity

Rebuilding Women’s Lives Sustainably Through Affordable Housing


Women who work in flour factories peeling cassava work in conditions of semi-slavery. Their homes have no basic water and sewer infrastructure, and they live in extreme poverty, with an average monthly income less than one half the minimum wage depending on how much cassava they manage to peel.

Many women start in the factories as children, so their chances of educational success are extremely low: 20% of women are illiterate and 75% have incomplete primary education, resulting in functional illiteracy.

The problem of poverty and social disadvantage is due to a combination of factors such as a lack of schooling, unequal gender roles, lack of job opportunities, and lack of self-esteem, no collective organisation and no knowledge of guaranteed rights.

Project goals

The project’s main objective is to integrate various social development programmes in the Goitá Basin, in north-eastern Brazil, to combat extreme poverty, gender inequality and precarious housing conditions of women who make a living peeling cassava in the local flour mills. The project's focus is on strengthening community organisation, addressing gender issues, increasing financial sustainability and building homes for women-led families, considering that almost 100% of households are headed by women.

This project has three pillars:

  • Strengthening of community development: Through community workshops, encouraging families to discuss and reflect on community organisation and the involvement in the process to secure better conditions for their community;
  • Gender and financial sustainability: Encourage local women to take an active role in their local community and increase financial sustainability by identifying alternative incomes through cooperatives. Families, working in groups of 20, attend training presentations on financial literacy, personal savings, maintaining a home and being good community partners.
  • Housing solutions: The houses are designed collectively through participatory workshops where families discuss their needs and work with our architects to create a blueprint. Each house is 44 cubic meters, with a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom, utility room, and porch.


The project will provide decent and affordable housing to 25 women who work in the cassava factory. The houses built by Habitat for Humanity Brazil are safe and fulfil all of the government requirements of construction.

The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund that is used to build or renovate still more Habitat houses. In addition to the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest one day per week of their own labour – sweat equity – into building their Habitat home and the homes of others. This project does not stop once the 25th house is built. Habitat works with the participating families to discuss pathways out of poverty and to support others to achieve similar results through community organisation and collective action.

Habitat for Humanity Brazil helps not only to build houses but also to build communities, encouraging families served by the programme to become facilitators and leaders in their communities.

Project results

The long-term impact is for 25 women and their families to have a stable and safe place to live, as well as a chance to break the cycle of poverty for future generations. Children of these women will have access to a healthier and safer environment where they can study to secure a better life and future. 25 women and their families, in total 125 adults and children, will benefit directly, while 75 families in the community, in total 375 adults and children, will benefit indirectly. So far, 63 homes have already been built and five more are under construction. Partners in this project are the City of Feira Nova, the Women Centres of Gloria do Goita and Vitoria de Santo Antao, and the Caixa Economica Federal and State Company for Housing and Works (CEHAB).