Movement Building in Rio’s Pacified Communities

April 10, 2014
 
 
 
 
WLP’s partner in Brazil, Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informaçao e Açao (Cepia), has launched an initiative to build the leadership capabilities of women from the Pacified Communities of Rio de Janeiro. The UPP Program (Pacification Police Units) was established in 2008 in response to the high level of violence in low income urban communities (favelas). The UPPs provide a permanent police presence in the community, including more intensive policing and provision of social services. The major aim of the UPP program is to reclaim communities which, due to neglect and poverty, fell to the hands of armed drug traffickers who use it as a base for their operations. These armed groups imposed unwritten laws, curfews, and justice on their own terms, indiscriminately using violence against the population while also keeping residents quiet by distributing food and other goods. The situation in the favelas can be especially devastating for women. For example, if a woman reported an incident of domestic violence to the police she would face retribution from the drug traffickers for bringing the police into the community. Currently, more than seventeen favelas benefit from the presence of the UPPs. The program includes around 3,000 police officers and benefits an estimated 276,000 residents. The UPP Program has become a model that is being replicated in other cities throughout Brazil. Recent data published in national newspapers showed a significant increase in the school performance of the students coming from these communities. Citizenship rights, including the right to education and human security, are being slowly reclaimed.  
 
Since 2012, Cepia has reached out to community leaders working on social projects within the UPP communities, carefully working to establish trust and building their capacities to effectively dialogue with the UPP representatives.  Cepia has convened several meetings with potential facilitators and leaders to introduce them to the ideas behind WLP’s “Leading to Choices” and “Leading to Action” workshops and manuals. Aside from introducing the methodology, the purpose of these meetings was to see which issues they would like to address through workshops and if convening workshops would even be possible. As part of the preparation process, Cepia convened workshops on the Maria da Penha Law (Brazil’s federal law to address violence against women) to share data, listen to the facilitators’ perspectives about VAW in the pacified communities, and to discuss the legal instruments to combat VAW.  A step-by-step strategy to access Maria da Penha Law was also discussed. 
 
This preparation phase was followed by a three day leadership and political participation workshop within the Pavão Pavãozinho Community. In preparation for this workshop Cepia also held meetings with government representatives working inside the community to discuss the leadership program. While initially the intention was to hold workshops only with community leaders, during the planning process Cepia saw this would be an important opportunity to include government representatives to discuss strategies to empower women in the local community, especially in terms of countering violence against women. Following the workshop, which convened a mix of residents, government workers, and community leaders, participants developed projects including:  a program to teach citizenship to children through music; a program to teach recycling techniques to women from the community as a way to discuss environmental issues and as a source of revenue; a community samba school; and a video production about music styles from low income communities. 
 
Following this initial workshop, Cepia received requests to convene workshops from the pacified communities of Chapeu Mangueira and Manguinhos.  They have now launched another series of trainings in these communities following the same model. 
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