Antonia Nascimento Moreira, Visiting Scholar with the Institute for the Study of Human Rights

Which program/department are you in?

Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Human Rights Advocates Program.

What is your primary area of research?

Human Rights.

Which country (or countries) do you come from?


How long have you been in the U.S.?

I have been here since January 2023, and it has been such a fantastic experience! It's my first time abroad, and I couldn't be happier with all the exchanges I have had with colleagues worldwide.

Tell us about your research and projects at Columbia.

The Human Rights Advocates Program (HRAP) selects advocates working on critical issues around the world. In Brazil, I am Director of Strategy at Atelier TRANSmoras Association, a trans-led non-profit organization that works through economic empowerment and artistic production to change the scenario of violence towards trans people. Transphobia is the leading cause for trans feminine identities to have only 35 years of life-expectancy. That’s why we do educational advocacy and projects in arts, fashion, social movements and academia, to foster income generation, movement building and rights. With the opportunity to study at Columbia, I am developing myself as an advocate, expanding my networking for partnerships, knowledge, exchange and fundraising. Also, with support of my mentor, Tamara J. Walker, from Barnard, I am conducting independent research about transgender art movements in Brazil. 

How has your experience at Columbia been?

Columbia, so far, has been great. As a visiting scholar taking classes in the Law School and Oral History Master program, I can apply knowledge and methodologies in my research and advocacy pathway. These capacities would have been too difficult to find by myself in Brazil. The University gives me all the tools I need: mentorship, great libraries with a system connected to other universities, creative and critical thinking. I am taking advantage of all opportunities from this structure. 

HRAP is at the forefront of capacity building in Human Rights. We have graduate-level classes, workshops with leading organizations, speaking engagements, networking meetings, a trip to Washington DC to expand contacts, mentorship, and of course, all the exchange among the other advocates from other 9 countries. 

With Humans Rights Watch, I learned the concept of ongoing trauma, which helps me to connect the rhetoric of trans rights being human rights, as what we see in Brazil is an ongoing trauma related to violence among trans communities. With Philantropia, I learned how large foundations in the USA work. With Storycorps, I learned more about the power of storytelling in Oral History research and art. With my colleagues from South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia I’m learning about their grassroots projects and also high-level advocacy with trans and LBTQI+ rights, and what is close to Brazil, and what is different. With my friends working with indigenous rights in Mexico and Bolivia I learn everyday about intersectionality, as well as from Haiti, Dominican Republic, Georgia and Serbia advocates.

I’m a scholar fully dedicated to Human Rights right now, redefining my own path in this field. I’m glad, because I’m creating connections and being open-minded about sharing my point of view to start broad dialogues. All of this enhances learning processes as a whole. How I see the world and the opportunities ahead will change significantly after Columbia for my organization and me. 

What is the hardest thing about living here? 

The hardest part is to be far away from my family, and friends, to not see, and touch my cat and my girlfriends on a daily basis, and of course, to not live the beautiful summer in Brazil. However, I face this unique experience as a way to strengthen my resilience, leadership, and bravery. 

Connect with Antonia on InstagramLinkedin, or the TRANSmoras website.

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