Ways out of the spiral of violence


In Peixinhos, a district of Olinda in the state of Pernambuco, the challenges are great: violence, crime, inadequate schooling and a precarious economic situation characterize the neighbourhood. Despite these difficulties, young people like 19-year-old Keila Marques are committed to peaceful coexistence and a dignified life in their community.

Keila Marques is reluctant to talk about who she has already lost to the omnipresent violence in her short life. Just this much: for her and other young people from Peixinhos, "surviving the violence is the biggest challenge." The fact is that the murder rate in Pernambuco has risen sharply in recent years: The state has the third-highest rate of violent deaths in Brazil. The police are often powerless in the face of drug trafficking groups and paramilitary organizations. As a result, many young people, often innocent teenagers, lose their lives because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The murder of a friend or acquaintance is part of the sad everyday life of many young people in the outskirts of the cities in north-eastern Brazil. But it is not only violence and crime that characterize the lives of many young people in Brazil. They also have little access to education and there are few jobs.

Making the best of it

But what could slow young people down in the face of great difficulties becomes motivation. They want to do everything they can to improve their lives. With our "Ways out of the spiral of violence" project, we empower these young people with psychosocial and legal support as well as access to important information. We train them in non-violent communication, youth protagonism, human rights and anti-racism. It is very important to strengthen the identity of young people who grow up in a discriminatory environment. In our courses, they learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully and promote a culture of peace in their community instead of resorting to violence as a solution to problems. Group therapies are also helpful in overcoming traumatic experiences, fostering bonds between participants and strengthening the psyche.

Young people for social change

Empowering young people is at the heart of our work. The knowledge that young people like Keila acquire in our project is passed on to their peers at school. Keila wants other young people to know their rights, because "I didn't know what rights I had as a young person either before I took part in the project. You experience so many injustices that you end up believing that your life will always be characterized by exclusion. I didn't realize that young people have rights that need to be respected," says Keila.

The work at the schools not only has a positive impact on the direct participants of the workshops, but also on the communities. By strengthening the culture of peace, young people become agents of social change and spread values that contribute to a more peaceful and respectful coexistence.

Promoting political commitment

Young people learn to get politically involved in our project. Keila noticed for herself that "as soon as I was involved in the project, my view of my community changed completely, especially in relation to the issues of discrimination and racism. "I became aware of which population groups are disadvantaged and what political measures are needed in Brazil." The young people were able to meet the head of the State Secretariat for Social Development, Children and Youth. They demanded that the child and youth protection service in the state of Pernambuco be reactivated - with success!

Many motivated young people meet at the National Youth Conference. Photo: GSCASC

"The more we know, the more we can sensitize and inspire other young people. The more active we are in the community, the more we can reduce violence and discrimination in our neighborhood," Keila is convinced. Thanks to the mobilization of the young people, a dialogue with decision-makers was created, which improved relations between the authorities and the community and strengthened cooperation in the search for solutions to the violence in the area.

Our partner organization also carries out political lobbying to draw attention to the challenges. Raising awareness among decision-makers and working together are important for effective violence prevention programs.

Young voices for peace

Our project enables young people from different Brazilian states to network and exchange ideas, for example by participating in the National Youth Conference. There, young people have the opportunity to voice their concerns and suggestions for the federal government's program strategy. Keila was present as a delegate from the state of Pernambuco. "I think these conferences are very important because young people from different regions come together and we talk about the challenges in our cities. There are many motivated young people. We are convinced that we can make a difference in our communities. We want to be heard!" Keila is determined when she thinks about her future: "I am a young black woman and I will continue to work hard for peaceful coexistence. I will not give up!"

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