A woman’s place is … wherever she wants – A Portuguese Girl Guide Opinion

Texto que escrevi para a WAGGGS, publicado aqui, relacionado com o trabalho que tenho vindo a desenvolver no âmbito da Comisssão do Estatuto da Mulher 59.

Since I was young I kept hearing people telling me “girls do this” and “girls don’t do that” regarding all sort of topics. It started with “Sandra, girls don’t play football”, “Sandra, you have to help your mum” (while your brothers don’t) or “Employer: Hi. How are you? We are actually looking for electronic engineers. Sandra: Yeah, I am one Employer:  Oh”.

Being from a traditional Portuguese family with parents with a low level of education, roles of men and women are stereotypical, and I always had to struggle to understand why some of my options had to take my gender into consideration.

I started playing football in a club when I was 13 years old. Since primary school, people could only find me on the football pitch during breaks, playing with boys. I remember my parents repeating every week that football was not meant for girls and that I was a tomboy. I was not worried, however I knew that in a certain way, I was different from other girls. I didn’t care though, I just wanted to play football.


Nowadays (and 20 years later), I’m actually in the Portuguese I Division and together with a team of volunteers, I run the Women’s Football in Portugal Website, which is the main source of information about this sport in my country.

When the time came to choose my academic course, I had many doubts as do most students. I ended up choosing an engineering course. I could have chosen chemical, biomedical, textile engineering, or anything else but I ended up choosing Electronic Engineering because I loved technologies since I was in high school. Indeed, I was the only female freshman in my class but that didn’t stop me from being the student representative of my class for 5 years, graduating with a Master degree in 2009 and graduating with a Ph.D. in 2014.


In the week after graduating I attended a job market held at the School of Engineering in my university. It was the Engineering week so all the companies represented were somehow related with technologies. I visited at least ten stands and from this number more than four stands hesitated in presenting their company to me; they assumed that I wasn’t an engineer (half of the remaining companies were human resources oriented).

Trying to change this perception and tackle these deeply rooted norms, together with other female engineers and professors from my university, in 2010 I founded the IEEE Women in Engineering – Portugal Section with the goal of encouraging more girls to pursue STEM courses (Science, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics).


As I mentioned earlier: “I knew that I was in a certain way different from other girls” and I believe I only took these decisions and options in my life because I’ve been a Girl Guide since I was 7 years old. I grew up with weekly meetings and age-tailored activities where my leader told me “Girls are able do whatever they want” and “the women’s place is … wherever she wants”. This is why I believe that the work that WAGGGS is doing is absolutely amazing and two-folded. On one hand, Girl Guiding and Girl Scouting trains young women and girls, giving them the opportunity to develop to their full potential as responsible citizens. On other hand, WAGGGS also give us all the opportunity of being part of the solution, participating in international events such as CSW59, demanding global leaders to commit to the same key messages on behalf of 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Sandra Costa, Portugal

Remote Youth Delegate, CSW59

In http://www.wagggs.org/en/iwd/csw59blogposts

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