Portuguese television star Catarina Furtado, 45, is one of four women that will present this year’s Eurovision. She has been speaking to Euronews about what the song contest means to her and how it links in with her charity work to improve women’s rights.
How excited are you about presenting Eurovision?
I'm so honoured to be part of this super event, one of the biggest TV shows in the entire world. For me, a professional communicator with a 27-year career, it’s very challenging to speak for the first time to 182 million people, according to the numbers of last year! Having my name linked to the Eurovision history from this day on, it’s a reason to feel proud for me and for a super Portuguese team, from RTP (Portuguese public broadcaster), behind the cameras, that is fundamental for everything to go smoothly.
I am going to tell my grandchildren all about this incredible experience, for sure! Lots of work but also lots of fun.
Did you have to think twice before accepting the role?
Not at all. I accepted it right away.
What do you think of the contest?
Beyond all this media hype and all this festive spirit, Eurovision Song Contest is, truly, a celebration of the friendship and progress that we have made across the planet, as a European community. It is a beacon of hope and happiness for all of us! But we need to take this opportunity, when “the world” is looking at us, to remember each and every young girl and woman that is still facing all kinds of violence based on gender. We cannot accept that 800 women die every day delivering a baby.
Eurovision can be a great platform to remember that we cannot leave anyone behind.
How do you feel about sharing presenting duties with four other women?
It’s natural for me! The most important thing, when it comes to work, is to know that I’ll work with professionals that are committed to do their best and bring good energy to the team. It’s fundamental to work with people with great values. And I’ve known the work of Daniela, Filomena and Silvia for some time: they are fantastic professionals and we have a good chemistry between us!
This all-female presenting team is the living proof that women can help each other and work together perfectly! Our working environment is all about love! Four different women sharing this unbelievable experience and standing for each other so that each and every one of us could give our best!
“When women come together, amazing things happen!” I always knew this! I hope this experience really helps to erase this idea that women can’t work together! Women support women!
What does it mean to Lisbon and Portugal to be hosting this year’s event?
I’m an alfacinha! (It is quite a common expression for people of other cities in Portugal to refer to the inhabitants of Lisbon as Alfacinhas) so I’m quite happy! I believe Lisbon is a great city to live in and to visit and — above all — it’s an open and inclusive city with its arms wide open! Perfect to welcome all the Eurovision fans from all around the world!
What is your favourite Eurovision song?
In this 2018 edition I have to say the Portuguese song “O Jardim”(The Garden) — by Cláudia Pascoal and Isaura — because it talks about the endless love and importance of grandmothers within the family. We can’t forget that they experience motherhood twice! It means a lot to me: I learned so much from each grandmother and grandfather (from both sides, my mum’s and dad’s).
But when I think about Eurovision I have to emphasise “E Depois do Adeus” (in English, “After the Farewell") by Paulo de Carvalho. This song is of major importance to Portugal - it was the signal to begin the revolution against the fascist regime, airing (at 10:55 pm) by 'Emissores Associados de Lisboa' radio! It was the beginning of the Carnation Revolution that took place in 25th April, 1974.
It’s poetic, if you think about it, that we chose a flower - carnation - to symbolize this important moment of our time. A peaceful coup! We called it “Freedom day”. And besides all this historic importance, it has a great importance in my family in particular. My father (journalist), Joaquim Furtado, read the first Communication of the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) in Rádio Clube Português (radio station) and from this moment on, we, Portugal, live in freedom.
Tell us your personality in five words?
Maternal, courageous, sympathetic, protective, workaholic!
What’s your career highlights so far?
I have to choose two moments that I considered turning points in my life, which helped me grow as a person and as a professional!
The first one: when I studied acting in London between 1995 and 1997. In that moment I really needed to start over and challenge myself after the huge media hype of hosting “Chuva de Estrelas” (a Portuguese talent show). I was only 20 years old and I had many dreams.
The second turning point was in 2000, when I was invited to be a Goodwill Ambassador of UNFPA, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency by Kofi Annan
This important mission led me to begin my career as a documentary filmmaker with “Príncipes do Nada” (“Princes of Nothing”) — four seasons so far — that shows the reality of the noble NGO volunteers in developing countries and, unfortunately, the intolerable situation that many women and girls still live on the 21st Century and “Dar Vida Sem Morrer” (“Give Birth without Dying”) that portrays the reality of the maternal and neonatal condition in Guinea Bissau.
This UNFPA experience led me also, in 2012, to found the Portuguese ONGD "Corações com Coroa" that aims to promote a culture of solidarity, equal opportunities, social inclusion and sustainable development of people in particularly vulnerable situations.
How does your work with UNPFA help women and what parallels does it have with the values of Eurovision?
I know that when we think about Eurovision the first thing that comes to our minds is party, music, happiness, but we have to remember that it is also a beacon of hope that brings people together and — for me, as a woman, citizen, communicator and Goodwill Ambassador of UNFPA — I think it’s fundamental to use this media spotlight to also remember that the world is still facing huge challenges when it comes to human rights. More than 200 million women are unable to access modern family planning and tens of thousands of girls are facing abuses like child marriage and female genital mutilation. I use my social media channels (Facebook and Instagram) to talk about these issues all the time and I took the opportunity to talk about all this challenges in the Eurovision Press Conference and in many interviews regarding this event.
Are girls growing up in Portugal today on an equal footing with boys?
Portugal faces a huge problem with the increase of dating violence among youngsters and different forms of gender-based violence, and girls and women are still the main victims. It is a very worrying phenomenon!
But I’m not just standing idly. Llast September we opened a cafeteria in the garden nearby our association — CCC Café — that has a social purpose, everything which is consumable goods flow entirely to our association projects; we’re touring in schools with our “CCC vai à Escola” (in English, “CCC goes to school”), a project aimed at 9th grade students, where we present them a theatre play in the context of the classroom, that promotes a reflection on the issues like dating violence, adolescent pregnancy, contraception, bullying and cyberbullying.
Everyone can check our website: www.coracoescomcoroa.org
In short, gender equality is to be given high priority on the political decision-makers agenda, not only in Portugal but in the entire world. I know that Portugal has already made good progress on these matters but we still face many challenges! I’m optimistic! I believe that each one of us can make a difference! Me and my “Corações Com Coroa” team and UNFPA work around world will do everything that we can to change this paradigm and to promote a more just and more egalitarian society.
When you support a girl you're supporting, in the same time, a family, a community, a country.