They gave me a voice
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They gave me a voice

 

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Photo: Gustavo Lima / Câmara dos Deputados

12/08/16 · By Luciano Cadoni · This is Elis (21) speaking in Brazilia at the congress at a special session against discrimination of Afro Brazilian Youth held earlier in March. As it can be seen, she’s now an outstanding leader who speaks up about issues that concern her, mostly related to children and afro Brazilian youth rights, but she did not become the person she is just by chance. This happen thanks to the support, the education and the encouragement  she received at the CWS supported activities implemented by the Projeto Meninos e Meninas de Rua (PMMR), in Sao Bernardo do Campo, SP, Brazil over the last 15 years. The receipt in her own words was simple “They gave me a VOICE!, they made me understand my opinion was important and worth sharing”.

 

But the relationship between Elis and CWS partner PMMR started more than 10 years ago. Around that time, Elis’ family house was swept away by a land slide due to strong rains that hit Sao Paulo. After that her family, father and two sisters, had to forcedly move to a wooden house, where they lived for 4 years. After that they moved to a public community home where they lived for 3 more years. As she recalls “It was a big place but our room had 10 ft by 10 ft and we had to share a public toilet”. During that time, when things were not easy at all for her and her family, was when she came across Leo, another former beneficiary of PMMR and a current politician, who introduced her to “the Projeto” as they call it.

 

Elis recalls “As I started to participate in the activities I felt welcome, I felt I could identify myself with the people there, it was when I started finding answers to many things that were happening in my life. I began to understand the social and economical context in which we live and the consequences that that has”.

 

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Photo: PMMR

Thanks to her participation in the project  she was able to travel to the Dominican Republic in 2011, on a CWS supported trip, where she was able to meet with other youths from Latin America. “That trip really “marked” me. It was the first time I was able to travel abroad and without my parents. I had the chance to know other cultures, people from other countries... It helped me to understand that although we are different we have similar challenges. For example I remember we had the chance to meet with the Minister of Social affairs, and I remember we talked a lot about Child Labor. I was a eye opener for me, since although I used to see that a lot back home I never understood how big of a problem that is”. In 2012 Elis and other youths hosted a group of peers from Uruguay, Nicaragua and the DR. “That was great too. It was great to share and show them a bit of our culture”.

 

As if things were not hard enough for her and her family, Elis’ older sister was sent to prison. Since then, she is currently taking care of her little niece and facing all the struggles that the families of prisoners face regularly. “It is hard for us, the whole family mood and energy changed since that happened. Each moment we spent at home all together we are thinking of her and how she is coping inside the prison. It is not nice. When she was taken I was not able to see her for 4 years because we were young and she was being kept very far from us. It was a really hard time particularly for her daughter who was 1 at the time”.

 

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Photo: PMMR

But despite this odds, and thanks in part to CWS supported actions Elis has become the amazing woman she is today.

 

She is currently a studying Social Sciences and, as mentioned above, she has became an advocate and an activist.

 

This activism grew on her also thanks to the PMMR and the EURECA .Every year before the famous Brazilian carnival starts the PMMR organizes the EURECA parades. Using the samba beats they create a songs where they highlight and advocate around issues that affect children and youth in Brazil. PMMR has been doing this for 25 years and Elis and her family have participated in those parades since she joined the organization. “EURECA (Acronym for I recognize the Estatute for the Rights for Children in Portuguese) is our way to speak up, to talk about the children rights that are being violated while we dance, sing and drum on the streets!. Every year we prepare a lot for that day”.

 

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Photo: Gustavo Lima / Câmara dos Deputados

This march Elis was a protagonist in a day that as she claims, “it was historic” her life. That day she was able to speak at the House of Representatives, in Brazilia. “It was amazing. A black woman that comes from where I came speaking there in front of that people. That is something unforgettable for me”.

 

After a moment of silence she reflects and says... “If I hadn’t had the chance to participate at the PMMR activities I do not know how my life would be today. What and who I am today, a leader, a student, an activist is because of PMMR. The most important thing for me it that they gave me a VOICE. They made me understand that I can tell and should tell my story and advocate for my rights.”

 

Today, on Youth Day we share this story as way to reiterate our commitment to continue changing lives as Elis’ and many other lives of youth that struggle day by day to live in this every unequal and violent continent. They are the key for a better future and Elis agrees to that. “I dream with a fairer world, were the rights of women, of children, of black people can be respected and we can all live as equal”.

 

We at CWS are willing to do what we can so those, and many other dreams, become true!