Maria do Rosário Lopes Pereira Gonçalves: “Engaged to serve“
Maria do Rosário Lopes Pereira Gonçalves did not aim to climb the judiciary ladder in her country, Cabo Verde. She only wanted “to be different from the women who were part of her daily life” in her native Santiago Island, where cultural and social contingencies often confine women to the roles of wives and home-makers. Indeed, Maria do Rosário Lopes has been different. She has become the second woman chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) in Cabo Verde. In the land of Césaria Evora, women have voices and convictions. And Maria Rosario is fully aware of that.
As the fourth of seven children (four girls and three boys), she successfully attended Morro Branco primary school, Santa Cruz Municipality, Santiago Island/Pedra Badejo, Cónego Jacinto secondary school, Praia, Santiago Island, and finally the Law Faculty, Lisbon University, Portugal, in 2005. Education and training played a key role in the career of this young woman, who, as she was studying law, was convinced that not only “the studies change people and break barriers, but also bring about positive changes for future generations.”
The studies change people and break barriers, but also bring about positive changes for future generations
This conviction, combined with strong determination to contribute to the development of her country and its institutions, will accompany Maria do Rosário throughout her professional life. She served as teacher of French in Alfredo da Cruz Silva high school, law teacher in Pedra Badejo secondary education center, Santa Cruz Municipality, Santiago Island, trainee in a law firm for two years, before getting admitted as Barrister in Cabo Verde on 23 March 2007. A few months later, Maria do Rosário was appointed as a Judge in São Felipe, Fogo Island, after she graduated top of the class in the national examination for the recruitment of judges.
For this young mother, it is not enough to hold high positions to show her success, she has to meet the challenges she has been selected for. And there are a lot challenges in Cabo Verde!
Despite economic and political stability, Cabo Verde, like other West African countries, will have to make changes to consolidate development and good governance. However, changes will be effective only in the long run and will depend on strong policies and investments in education and training as much as on building and changing mentalities. It is crucial to invest in education and training, especially for girls, she stresses.
Mario do Rosário wanted to be different from the other women to better serve them and serve her country. After serving at the civil court of first instance in the region of Santa Catarina, Santiago Island, in 2008, the Judge was appointed in 2014 to the court of first instance of Praia, capital of Cabo Verde, where she remained until May 2015, when she was appointed as Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) on 7 May 2015. Was it a recognition or a challenge for this woman who loves to make effort and work?
It is very difficult to dream of something, which was not even part of my imagination as a child
Maria de Rosario’s response was unequivocal. Two years after her appointment, the Chairperson of Cabo Verde’s CNE took up the challenge.
“It is very difficult to dream of something, which was not even part of my imagination as a child,” she said after her election. The young girl from Ponta Achada, Santa Cruz municipality, Santiago Island/Pedra Badejo, took another important step in her life.
With her experience and her determination, Maria do Rosário Lopes Pereira Gonçalves and her team succeeded, within six months, in organizing three transparent and peaceful elections in 2016 (legislative elections on 20 March, local/municipal elections on 4 September, and presidential election on 2 October). Such a performance sets her country as a model for democracy in the sub-region and even in the world.
However, this was not a piece of cake. “I am very resilient to rivalry. I try to see myself as the main responsible for both good and bad things, which may happen. I try also not to complain when things do not work as expected. In any circumstances, I stick to the principles, values, and laws.”
From now on, with her gained experience, the Chairperson of Cabo Verde’s CNE intends to share her know-how and even her social skills with the other counterparts in the sub-region and the world. “I learned and I acquired knowledge of electoral organization and management. At the international level, I took significant steps in improving my emotional intelligence. It would be an honor to share my experience, because, ultimately, the most important thing is to learn from diverse, successful and unsuccessful experiences.”
“I have come a difficult way and I think that I still have a long way to go. I know that along this way, there will be both good and bad things. And it only depends on me to achieve them.” That is how Maria do Rosário Lopes Pereira Gonçalves sums up her professional life, which started about forty years earlier.