“Gabriela is 25 and lives in Tamboril, in the State of Cearà. She got married when she was just 18 and she has two children, Pedro and Cassia. Her life was not easy at all. Her husband treated her like a slave and repeatedly tormented her with physical and psychological abuses.
Gabriela often thought about leaving her house, but she knew that she would not have been able to raise her children on her own without neither money or a job.
Thanks to WeWorld’s projects in the school that Pedro and Cassia attend, we could engage Gabriela in one of our informal groups of women. Here Gabriela learnt new agricultural techniques and how to use them in her kitchen garden, so that now she can grow by herself food for her children.
Above all, together with other women of the community, she has learnt that, as a woman, she is entitled to certain rights that are protected by state laws.
Eventually Gabriela plucked up the courage to press charges against her husband. Now she works full time at her kitchen garden and sells what she produces, which is healthy and organic, to the canteen of her children’s school.”
Monica, WeWorld Operator in Brasil.
The situation in Brasil
Until two years ago, Brazil has experienced rapid economic growth, which made him fall between the five emerging economies of the world (the so-called BRICS), coming to occupy in 2014 the 7th place in the ranking of the world’s largest economies, with a GDP of 2,340 Billion Dollars. In 2016, according to data from the Instituto Brasileiro de Estatística and Geography (IBGE) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country fell to 9th place, with a reduction of 24.6% of national GDP. In all cases, it is leveling off in 2nd place as the largest economy in the American continent, preceded only by the United States of America. Despite this strong growth, Brazil has maintained its characteristics such as deep social inequalities, high concentration and unfair distribution of wealth, very large areas of poverty and misery. The country has 206,080,000 inhabitants (IBGE, 2016), the richest 20% of which on average earn nearly 17 times more than the poorest 20%, placing Brazil in 14th place among the most world unequal countries (Report of Human Development / UN 2015).
Nevertheless, according to the Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 2013), which analyzes the results of the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN at the beginning of 2000, Brazil appears to be one of the countries that have most contributed to the achievement of first of eight goals – “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in the world” – becoming an international reference point. While the rest of the world has managed to reduce poverty from 47% in 1990 to 22% in 2012, Brazil, during the same period, has eradicated hunger and managed to reduce the population in extreme poverty to one-seventh compared to that of 1990, decreasing from 25.5% to 3.5% in 2012. This great achievement is the result of national public policies, such as enrollment unique for social programs, which allowed the benefits such as Bolsa familia arrive in all 5,570 municipalities of the country.
Much progress has been made, but Brazil still has a long road ahead to solve its structural problems.
In a study divulged in 2016 by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), bound to UNDP, it is concluded that between 2004 and 2013 poverty rates have dropped from 20% to 9% of the population and from 7% to 4% in the case of extreme poverty. However, the profile of poverty remains unchanged: it is higher in rural areas and in the North and Northeast regions of Brazil, where there is also the State of Ceará. Almost all of the residents in extremely poor agricultural domiciles in the Northeast do not have enough land for subsistence, work informally and have no access to services and subsidies of state support.
Brazil is a world reference for the reduction of child mortality. From 1990 to 2012, the mortality rate of children under 1 year was reduced by 68.4% and decreased to 14.9 deaths for every 1,000 live births (data of the Ministry of Health, in particular the system de Informação sobre Mortalidade SIMe System de Informação sobre Nascidos Vivos – SINASC, 2012). To date, however, children under one year die from causes that could be easily avoided and the major victims of child mortality are indigenous children, subject to an infant mortality rate that is double than the other Brazilian children (Departamento de Informática do Unico System de Saúde – DATASUS 2011).
In Brazil, the rate of femicides is 4.8 per 100 thousand women – then the fifth in the world ranking, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2015, Mapa da Violencia revealed that, from 2003 to 2013, the number of murders of Afro-descendant women grew by 54%, from 1,864 to 2,875 cases per year. In the same decade, the number of victims of gender violence increased by 190.9% for colored women while the annual amount of murders of white women fell by 9.8%, from 1,747 in 2003 to 1,576 in 2013. Of total feminicides registered in 2013, 33.2% of the killers were partners or former partners of the victims. After the Law Maria da Penha, in 2015 it was also approved the Law on Feminicide (13,104 / 2015), which has altered the Brazilian Penal Code, explicitly characterizing the crime as murder committed against women because of their gender.
Today, Brazil is going through a time of deep economic crisis and extreme fragility and threat to its young democracy. After only 25 years since the beginning of the re-democratization process of the country, after 20 years of civil-military dictatorship (1964-1985), and a slow reopening political process that lasted about five years (1985-1990), the results that Brazil has conquered over the last 20 years are seriously at risk.
The country is experiencing the worst corruption scandal in its history, directly involving the main political actors of the country, without distinction of party. The current government has announced worrying measures to reduce public spending, especially at the expense of social policies, which in the last decade have favored the social, human and economic development of the Brazilian population. Have been deleted important ministries, such as social development and fight against hunger, agricultural development, culture, women, racial equality, youth and human rights. Ministers appointed by the new government are all white men, belonging to the elite. Public policies of income redistribution have been significantly reduced; it is undergoing a conservative reform of the social security system and of the higher education system, with a strong reduction in investment in federal public universities.
How we operate
In Brazil we mainly focus our intervention on the fight to end violence and sexual exploitation, on supporting mothers and children and on improving the educational system.
The first step to stop domestic violence and sexual exploitation consists of strengthening the bonds between families, schools and children, in order to create a tight safety network and offer real help to the victims. In the schools involved in our project, teachers and educators receive specific training to recognize and to identify cases of violence. Through culture, sport and art, we offer valuable life alternatives to the children and teenagers who are most at risk of social exclusion; we motivate them to re-enter the educational system and avoid the risk of further abuses.
Furthermore, our work in schools aims to raise children’s awareness of their rights and to teach them to respect other people and the environment. Only by promoting awareness will it really become possible to move towards a future in which the Brazilian economy can grow without simultaneously worsening social unbalances and without destroying the natural heritage of the country.
We also offer real help to many women and mothers in economic and social difficulty. Our work consists primarily in helping them acquire a greater awareness of their rights, in fighting gender based violence and in pressuring the authorities to take effective action against the phenomenon, all the while working to actively improve women’s autonomy.