Brazil 2014. An exploration of camaraderie, inspiration, shared topical and personal interests, to gain knowledge and experience to influence our practice for the benefit of others, including our worn profession and our communities back here in the UK.

At the beginning of the 2014 gab spread its wings across the Atlantic Ocean to the wild, rhythm-filled metropolis of Rio De Janerio, Brazil. 

Brazil has had a large amount of global attention recently with its rising international status as an emerging economic power, and with the World cup and soon the Olympics on its door step many more people are travelling there to experience its alluring culture and tropical climates.  We were interested in what this was throwing up socially and getting involved deep into the real day to day of life, exploring the societal situations for ourselves. gab connected and worked along side a few different organisations in Rio and Sao Paulo who work hard to improve persistent social inequality, discrimination and human right violations. We supported existing projects, shared and exchanged our knowledge and met some incredibly inspiring people along the way!

Brazil is an enchanting, stunning country; rich in cultures, colours, flavours, languages and customs. Being a fully democratic country, Brazil is slowly improving several social indicators; the government have been compelled by the people to attach more importance to social issues and create change. But despite some recent improvements, the issues of income inequality, social exclusion and education are difficult to ignore when you get slightly past the surface level of what is being presented.

Although the country is an important agricultural and industrial power, with the strongest economy in Latin America, poverty is widespread. There is a huge discrepancy with how this wealth is distributed and accessed across society. “The richest 10% of people in Brazil have access to over 40% of the country’s income. On the other hand, the poorest 10% receive about 1% of the income.” This paints a grim picture for those with little or no financial stability. Poverty is visible and tangible, and mainly represented by the various favelas which are scattered throughout Rio. There are however several programmes and community initiatives in place to assist the hungry and the homeless, as well as to ensure that children have access to education. gab connected with an NGO called TETOa non-profit organisation that works towards giving people opportunities to develop their capacities and fully exercise their rights. Alongside TETO we visited the area Jardim Gramacho. A desperate slum on the outskirts of Rio that very few carioca’s (people who live in Rio) are aware even of its existence.

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Click here to details our of experience, Jardim Gramacho.

The most common forms of crime in Rio include mugging, robbing, kidnapping and gang violence. In addition to the crime within the community, there is also a problem within the law enforcement divisions, with corruption and violence being inflicted by the police themselves. This discourages the community to report incidents of violence, as they have little respect for the police. Brazil has been pacifying , or sending specialised military police units in to occupy Rio’s favelas. The intention was to provide a permanent presence that would curb violence. But the program has had unintended consequences. Critics say the problems haven’t been solved. Instead, criminals have only been dispersed to areas where there are fewer resources and less visibility, exacerbating the issues rather then addressing them.

gab meet with Morrihno, a project that began as a simple childhood game to escape from the realities of violence and corruption that surrounded the teens and their community, which turned into a social and cultural project with international recognition, challenging the misconceptions of favelas in Rio.

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click here for more details of their work Morrihno

gab also connected with feminist Panmela Castro and worked alongside her NGO Rede Nami; an activist female initiative who educate and raise awareness surrounding domestic violence towards women.

images-1See here for our Redi Nami experience.

In Brazil there is free access to education at all levels. Education at a Primary level is compulsory, and most of the Primary schools are maintained by the municipalities or the states that they occupy. This means that wealthier cities or states have better schools than their poorer counterparts, and the children suffer because of a lack of adequate amenities and resources. 

Poor families generally prefer for their children to start working as soon as possible, so that they can bring in an income. This has resulted in labourers as young as 10 years old, missing school in an attempt to earn money.

The high examination failure rate is another factor that influences non-attendance at schools, despite them being free.

gab visited and worked along side Gol de Letra, an alternative education institution that is based in Caju; a large fractioned favela in a poor area of Rio.

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See here for full details of Gol de Letra

gab also travelled to Sao Paulo to meet with members of Edu on Tour, Presente; a global movement for building up communities of alternatives in education and social innovation.

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And lastly click here for more on the experimental Presente and their connectivity.

As an organisation based in London we are aware of the problems associated with our own society, and in our own small way act to overcome them. The social problems and inequalities in Brazil are perhaps more obvious and extreme, but the large wave of independent, innovative action is inspiring- and we were lucky enough to meet with organisations making a difference. There is a lot of social unrest and a difficult relationship with the government; corruption abounds and people’s objections and anger at the situation are usually ignored. However, a large democratic, political movement has formed creating sub groups that speak loudly with a collective voice that calls for transformation.

This passion and motivation for challenging and creating change is powerful, leaving us reflective, thinking about our own practice and the society we live in. We too are in a turbulent, questionable time with our government and state of affairs. We need to be more critical, take more action and form solidarity with those who are fighting just causes with issues that we too struggle with here in the UK.

Although separated by distance and differing in culture it seems we all confront similar social problems in our various societies. There is a lot to be shared and discovered in our endeavour to achieve equal human rights.

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