At only 22 years old Ligia de Souza has the wisdom, empathy and intelligence of someone far beyond her years.
Ligia did not grow up with everything handed to her on a platter. Instead, she overcame the disadvantage which is synonymous with a female of African and indigenous descent living in Brazil. To evidence this, Ligia noted dark skinned Brazilians constituted 55% of the population but only 12.8% of university students. On a more personal level, Ligia is the only Brazilian of African and/or indigenous descent in her class at law school.
Ligia was born in a small city in the middle of a national park in Brazil. As a child, she grew up hearing about how her grandmother worked on coffee plantations with minimal employment entitlements before she retired. She lived with her grandparents until she was 7 as her mum Neide needed to earn money as a housekeeper in another part of Brazil. Just like Ligia, her mum Neide is very intelligent and has recently completed a degree in social work.
Ligia’s childhood gave her a great insight into the challenges indigenous and lower socio-economic people in Brazil endure. She quickly identified that the gap between rich and poor people in Brazil is immense. In some instances, unemployed families receive only $34 AUS per month via the applicable social program. This is not enough money to feed and house them.
After growing up in this context, Ligia decided to study law. She did this not to seek wealth for herself. Instead she sees the study of law as a great way to do her bit to help poor, disadvantaged and indigenous people in Brazil.
Just like her colleague Nathalia Lima, Ligia studies under Professor Solange Teles Da Silva at the Mackenzie Presbyterian University in Brazil. After excelling in her studies, Ligia applied for a scholarship to study overseas. She chose to study in Australia as she wanted to improve her English skills. She notes the ability to speak and write in English will allow her to more easily share information with others.
Whilst visiting the UNE School of Law, Ligia is writing a research paper entitled ‘Traditional communities and management of marine protected areas in Brazil and Australia.’
She presented a paper on this topic at the Coffs Harbour Symposium which was organised by the Australasian Centre for Agriculture and Law at UNE. She has also explored Australia by visiting Uluru, Airlie Beach and Sydney.
Ligia clearly loves Brazil, especially the diversity of people who make up the country. The South American country has large communities of people descended from places such as Germany, Italy, Portugal and Africa.
Ligia is very proud of the fact Brazil welcomes large numbers of refugees. In fact, Ligia has worked with refugee families. In particular, she helped 3 refugee children who escaped from the Civil War in Syria, master the Portuguese language.
She does note there are many well documented problems with the political system in Brazil. For example, the impeachment of the President in Brazil only increased the significant economic problems in the country. These issues have led to many people struggling to find jobs. There are also concerns surrounding the current political system.
When Ligia completes her studies, she hopes to specialise in environmental law and indigenous rights. In addition, Ligia is interested in pursuing an academic career. Before then she is keen to give herself an academic break by undertaking an Italian cooking course in Italy where she will learn how to make pizza and pasta as well as Silvia Colloco does!