So of course you know how once something enters your conscious awareness, you see it everywhere. You will not be surprised that Brazil is showing up all over my reality. Here’s a wonderful story about women in a shantytown in Rio de Janeiro broadcasting peace.
“Women in Favelas Broadcast Peace”
By Fabiana Frayssinet
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) – Local women’s voices have begun to be heard over a community radio station now broadcasting in Complexo do Alemao, a clump of favelas or shantytowns on the north side of this Brazilian city that were ruled until recently by armed drug gangs.
Gender issues, social and health matters, local environmental problems, employment and women’s rights are the focus of Radio Mulher, or women’s radio station, which began to broadcast this month.
Before going on the air, the participants received a year of training about the workings of a radio station, including general courses for all as well as specific training in different areas depending on each woman’s role in the station, as determined by each individual’s strengths and talents.
The new community radio station operators are aiming to “exorcise” difficult experiences that plague many girls and women in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and other cities in Brazil. “What are our ghosts? Sexual abuse and rape,” Anatalia dos Santos, one of the first 28 women to receive the training, responds to IPS without hesitation.
The radio station wants to tackle these and other thorny issues “that no one wants to talk about, like beatings from husbands, economic dependency on men, mothers who have to raise their children on their own,” she said.
“Women appear to be more resilient and combative, but they weren’t raised to get a job, to be successful, to make it on their own,” said dos Santos, who works as a nursing aide.
Because of this, she said, many women in Complexo do Alemao and other favelas are trapped by the reasoning that “better to live badly with him than worse off without him.”
Dos Santos belongs to Mulheres da Paz (Women of Peace), as do the rest of the women at the radio station, which broadcasts in the Complexo and surrounding areas on 98.7 FM.
Women of Peace, a Ministry of Justice programme, recruits community leaders to mediate in conflicts among local residents and try to create a peaceful haven in the favelas.
The women involved in Radio Mulher realise that the cycle of violence cannot be broken overnight, and can only be combated by creating “a culture of peace.”
The community radio station is based on the concept of women as logical nurturers of that culture of peace, because of their mothering and caretaking roles, whether these are built-in or learned, said Dacach.
There are important precedents for this social leadership role taken on by women, said the anthropologist. “In Brazil there are a large number of movements of mothers: mothers of missing youngsters and children, of young people who were tortured by the (1964-1985) dictatorship,” which form part of the tradition of women involved in political and feminist struggles, community organising, soup kitchens and other initiatives.
Through the community radio station, the women in the Complexo want to make “peace” a tangible, day-to-day reality in the favelas.
The list of issues they plan to deal with include women’s health, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and local environmental clean-up initiatives, said Marcia Rolemberg, head of educational communication in the state environment ministry.
For these women, who come from poor, violent neighbourhoods, there is no shortage of issues to be addressed.
The radio station’s first programme dealt with an issue of special interest to the community: the launch of a campaign to prevent dengue fever and the reproduction of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads the disease. The radio station’s campaign has the support of the Health Ministry.
Structured as a friendly chat among neighbour women, the programme moved from issue to issue, ranging from advice on how to keep the neighbourhood free of garbage and standing water in which the mosquitoes breed to how to recognise the first symptoms of dengue fever.
Although the Women of Peace are the operators of the radio station, it will be open to all voices in the community, not only because that is its role as a community station, but also because it is their calling, they explained to IPS during one of the workshops in which they receive ongoing training.
By Susan Corso
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