In April of 1907, Rachel Andresen saw the city lights of Amsterdam being turned on for the first time after the World War II, in that moment, Rachel’s life course altered forever as she became determined to “never let the lights go out again.”. From this promise, the global organization Youth for Understanding (YFU) was born, a exchange program organization which intended to promote the encounter between teenagers and other cultures in order to develop understanding with an ultimate goal of world peace.

Rachel’s commitment was recognized in 1964, when YFU was awarded the status of the non-profit educational organization, and in 1973 when she became a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for her commitment to international youth exchange.

Now with more than 65 years, Rachel’s organization is made up of many strong women like her, specially in Brazil, where we can find a woman as National Director and a board with a female majority. To those women, we would lide to introduce you:

Claudia Solano Martins

At YFU Brasil 46 years ago, Cláudia Solano began as an exchange student, volunteer and staffed, and in 1985 became the National Director, a position she has held since then. Because she has been active for so long, she believes that her life is all interconnected with the YFU, since it is an engaging work that encourages the participation of all. So her family ended up embracing the cause, whether in volunteer work or in the office, where she has her sister as a teammate.

After so many years dedicated to the YFU, Claudia can not only point out a story that was remarkable to her professional life, but she does point out that there are many stories, most of them involving students who have overcome themselves and have had great changes of life.

When it comes to women and equal rights and opportunities, she understands that we still have a long way to go, especially in countries where the chauvinist culture reigns and women are subjugated and treated as objects. And it reflects: “The way of the woman has changed much of the course of life. Today the woman has more space and some professions, that were predominantly masculine, has had a great number of women standing out. However, there is still a long way to go “.


Paula Solano

Claudia’s sister, Paula Solano is in charge of the long-term exchange candidates. Her work at YFU Brazil turns around the conversation and interview with candidates, usually teenagers, and their parents to investigate their motivations for the trip and to clear some doubts. In the team for more than 40 years, Paula believes that the YFU mixes with her family. Daughter of a volunteer mother, she grew up with exchange students in the house, which led her and her sister to follow in this direction, making interchanges in adolescence and later becoming volunteers. In addition to working in the organization, Paula says to take the YFU into her home to become a “mother” of exchange, or to encourage her daughter – who is a volunteer YFU – to follow in her footsteps.

Her period in the company was marked by many exciting moments, where she was able to follow the achievements and commitment of students and families involved. However, the most remarkable moment of her professional life was a personal achievement: “I realized the great dream of going to Istanbul, dream fed from childhood, and diving in the Sea of ​​Marmara, thanks to a training of YFU that happened there.”

When asked about equal opportunities and rights between men and women, Paula says we still have a long way to go. For her, to be a woman today “It is to live in the present, in the past, and in the future. At present, in our struggles for rights and recognition of achievements. In the past, because of we are aware of the difficulties our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers faced. And at the same time, we value the pleasure of doing typically female tasks such as caring for the children, caring for ourselves and our families, while also occupying previously exclusively male spaces. In the future, because we are looking for the new generations to be able to fight their own battles over what has already been won”.


Ghislana Licena Terêncio

Member of the Financial and Administrative team of YFU Brazil, Ghislana Licena Terêncio has been in the organization for 6 years and met the company through her colleague Paula Solano.At a beginning with a lot of work and learning, Ghislana believes that she and her family are nowadays, very much engaged in the exchange experience and have even had a German exchange student at home for a semester. A period that, according to her, marked not only her personal life but also her professional one, as it made it possible to experience and understand better how an exchange works.

When asked about the opportunity and rights for men and women, Ghislana says that even though there are more opportunities for women today, there is still a lot of discrimination. And complete: “To be a woman today for me is to be independent, to fight for your goals and to love yourself, even when you accumulate different duties: Mother, professional, wife, housekeep, etc … we are warriors and we can fulfill our role very well.”


Rafaela Rodrigues,

A YFU Brazil Assistant Coordinator for 6 years, Rafaela Rodrigues started in the field as an operation agent in the city where she lived. Held with her professional life, Rafaela considers her experience in YFU educational and rewarding, and she has so much involvement and dedication in what she does that she even receives students from the organization at her home when they need to spend one or two nights in Rio de Janeiro. This experience is considered enriching, not only for her but also for her family.

It is no wonder, that the most impressed thing in her professional life was her first year at work, and the first student she helped to go abroad. Rafaela says that because she didn’t have an exchange, she could experience how enriching this trip was for her first student when she received her back, 11 months later, it was an incredible experience. She also pointed out that the possibility of go along with the personal transformation of a young woman on the return of the United States helped her to believe more in her work at the YFU and to understand that she has a responsibility that can transform lives.

When it comes to women and gender equity, Rafaela doesn’t contain words. “Even today we see disparities in salaries, few women in management positions and domestic tasks that are not divided equally. Women are overwhelmed with everything that culture still imposes on us. We need to be good mothers, professionals, wives … “, she also mentions the dictatorship of beauty imposed on women, but shows hope in the daily battle for equity, and concludes:” Nowadays, to be a woman is to know that despite many fights and achievements we still have a long way to go. It’s to leave the beliefs and prejudices aside and continue fighting for more equality “.


In common, the YFU Women have an appreciation for the work they do, and the awareness that every woman deserves respect, equality of rights and opportunities. They also believe that by winning equity, we still have a lot to fight, but they show hope in the struggle of women today, who with strength and dedication they don’t give up on their goals and dreams.

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