Ways out of the spiral of violence

Young women interviewing the mothers of murder victims
In Brazil, murder is the most common cause of death among adolescents. In the large city of Recife, some 600 adolescents are murdered every year. Our partner organisation Grupo Comunidade Assumindo Suas Crianças (GCASC) offers psychosocial support to mothers whose sons were murdered. Their fate serves as a basis to create awareness in the city district and form a culture of peace.
"In my district on the outskirts of the city it is normal that two or three adolescents are killed on a weekend," says Elisangela Maranhão dos Santos, programme coordinator of GSCASC. A large number of the victims are male Afro-Brazilian adolescents. Social exclusion and discrimination are one explanation why adolescents get into drugs and drug-related crimes in the urban peripheries. A defective education system and lack of prospects drive them towards that milieu, which often costs them their lives in the end. Moreover, arbitrary police action and activities of private militias contribute to the
cycle of violence in the poor districts.
Creating awareness with individual life stories
In the Favelas, violence is such a daily occurrence that it is considered normal. "This is exactly what we have to strive against. We can no longer allow a human life to have no value at all," says Elisangela Maranhão dos Santos. The starting point for creating awareness of GCASC is the individual stories of young people that were murdered in the Favela Peixinhos. A group of eight adolescents interviews the mothers of the murder victims and documents the stories. The mothers are often left alone with their grief. Within the district one automatically assumes that the victim who was murdered was part of a drug gang or was involved in illegal activities. Therefore "she/he was responsible for the murder herself/himself."
Important mourning process for mothers
With psychological support and sharing in the self-help group, 70 affected mothers break out of their isolation and start to act. They are encouraged to convert their grief into motivation to create political awareness and commitment. They give each other strength in order to jointly try and stop the cycle of violence in their part of the city. Together with the mothers, the young people from the project deal intensively with the deeper causes of violence. The young people have drawn on their experience to develop various materials which they use to carry out sensitisation workshops in social institutions and schools of their Favela, and to create radio broadcasts and organise exhibitions.
Public pressure
The activities of the young people and the mothers’ self-help group are the basis for campaigns which demand measures are taken in the politics of prevention of violence. They wish to work together to ensure that the city council makes more money available for social programmes and better education opportunities for young persons. They are also demanding greater transparency in the government violence prevention programmes. Many politicians pride themselves on activities in the fight against violence, but concrete measures in Peixinhos have yet to be seen.
Our partner organisation
The organisation GCASC was founded in 1986 in Peixinhos, a district of Recife. The organisation's objective is to promote the rights of children and young people in Peixinhos. The organisation is well established in the city district with its pedagogic, psychosocial, extracurricular care of 250 children, and is highly appreciated. A group of eight adolescents is working in the project team. They are important promoters for the project and therefore regularly attend training sessions on specific topics.
Good networking
As part of a small project funding of terre des hommes Switzerland, GSASC 2011 acquired its first experiences with the kind of approach to the project we have described. In a short time, a great dynamic formed within the city district. More and more affected mothers contacted the organisation. For this reason, in 2012 a long-standing project partnership developed between terre des hommes Switzerland and GSASC. Because our partner organisation is well connected with specialised human rights organisations in the region of Recife, there is every chance that in the long term the project activities will have an effect beyond the borders of the city district.
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