Around 70 activists, representatives of 60 organizations, groups, and human rights collectives from the country’s five regions gathered in São Paulo from August 31st to September 2nd to debate the future of Brazilian Democracy. The Brazil Human Rights Fund Meeting of Projects was held in person after two years in a virtual format. The event aimed to articulate these collectives and groups and focused on their challenges in common and possible collective paths to face the setbacks in rights that affect part of the Brazilian population.
Leaders of quilombola and indigenous communities, women’s and LGBTQIA+ groups, and collectives that face mass incarceration, Racism, and setbacks in the democratic mechanisms of the country, attended the meeting. They all received grants through seven calls for proposals and emergency supports from Brazil Fund.
Ana Valéria Araújo, Brazil Fund’s executive director, celebrated our return to in-person format during the event’s opening. “After such a long time meeting you all online, it is delightful to meet you personally. And to be able to see what the numbers show us. For example, that Brazil Fund has been growing a lot and supporting more and more projects”, said Ana Valéria.
The executive director emphasized how vital the Meeting of Projects is to Brazil Fund’s mission. “We always leave this event even more powerful and with a better understanding of what is most relevant for the defense of human rights, especially at a time of so many setbacks as we are experiencing. This experience makes the Brazil Human Rights Fund work better and improve its initiatives”.
The event provides activists with a reading of the different and urgent matters in the country today, as well as a sharing of strategies for defending human rights. In addition, the experience allowed what was not possible for two years due to the restrictions of the pandemic: looking at each other in the eyes, hugging, and exchanging knowledge beyond computer screens.
Present in the meeting were the groups granted in the calls 2021-Moving Forward with Rights; Human rights and criminal justice; Tackling Racism at the Grassroots Level 2021; LGBTQIA+ defending rights; Human rights defenders: strengthening safeguarding skills and integral safety; In defense of the rights of indigenous peoples; and in the SOS Amazônia Emergency Support.
The scenario of violence and future urgencies
The educator, communicator, and black women’s movement activist Mônica Oliveira was the mediator of the entire meeting and also the one responsible for a political analysis that inspired the whole audience to reflect.
“The electoral systems reflect what is present in society. So, they reflect Racism, sexism, and homophobia. Those who take a position in the political dispute have faced much violence. It’s not difficult to hear women Federal Deputies say that they lost their lives and freedom because they had to walk surrounded by security guards 24/7 to avoid being murdered,” recalled the mediator.
“That level of violence is not a threat to Democracy because it is already beyond the threat. On the contrary, that kind of violence diminishes Democracy. But we can’t give up,” she continued.
Deputy Executive Director of Brazil Fund Allyne Andrade pointed out that being on the side of the struggle often means “losing companions for the confrontation you chose and, sometimes, also for the struggle you didn’t choose.” These struggles, said Allyne, affect specific portions of the Brazilian population “for being black, or quilombola, or indigenous, or women, or trans, or poor.” In this sense, she highlighted the importance of forming bonds of solidarity.
The activists and leaders there talked about their projects for defending human rights and presented some of the results in their communities.
According to Ana Cláudia Pereira from the Prison Pastoral Care of the State of Mato Grosso, Brazil Fund’s support helped change the prison system scenario in the state. “We were able to change the history of the prison system in Mato Grosso when it comes to the fight against torture,” she said. “No institution had access to the prison system, an aspect that changed at the beginning of the year. As a result, we no longer have children incarcerated. After ten years of struggle, we have these achievements now.”
Fernan Silva, a representative of Levante Popular da Juventude in Paraná, highlighted how important it is that the supporting foundations listen to and strengthen young people’s projects from the periphery. “The project supported by Brazil Fund allowed us our livelihood, our autonomy, and it guaranteed our means to act. We implemented the Podemos Mais course for popular education,” celebrated the young man. “The main result for us was an improvement in our self-esteem. Imagine! We had the means to make a banner, build a visual identity, T-shirts, etc. That made the people in the project more confident in what they are doing,” he added.
Fabrício Bogas, from Acontece Arte e Política LGBTI+, recalled the need for a more careful look at the mental health of human rights activists. “Those who defend human rights are persecuted in Brazil. As a consequence, we get depressed and feel unwell. So, we need to think about the mental health of the population working every day at the base, without money, alone, violated.”
“I leave this meeting strengthened. And grateful to Brazil Fund for the support provided to reinvigorate our fight, which is not easy. Our fight is for the rights of the youth in the periphery, not only for today’s youth. We are fighting for your children and your grandchildren,” said Solange Oliveira, from the Grieving Mothers of the East Zone, in São Paulo.