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ABRASCÃO in Manguinhos, Part 2: The Favela Occupies Academic Spaces [INTERVIEW]

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This is the second part of a two-part series consisting of interviews with two speakers at the 12th Brazilian Conference on Collective Health (ABRASCÃO) in Manguinhos. Read the first part here

In the first article on the 12th Brazilian Conference on Collective Health (ABRASCÃO), we reported on the importance of discussing collective health, strengthening rights—especially access to public health services—through an interview with Leonídio Madureira, coordinator of the Fiocruz Social Cooperative.

To popularize the debate, the Manguinhos favela community news collective Fala Manguinhos! covered the event, live-streaming videos on their Facebook page. One of the moments captured was an important speech by Patrícia Evangelista—resident of Manguinhos, activist, and founding member of the Organization of Women with Attitude.

See below:

We also had the opportunity to speak a bit more with Evangelista. She told us about the relationship between the discussions that took place at the event and the territory of Manguinhos (where the event was held) and how residents occupied the space to discuss their demands.

Edilano Cavalcante: Patrícia, you participated in the opening panel, a tribute to Marielle Franco, mentioning the dismantling of the Unified Health System (SUS) and rights violations that have occurred in recent months. At an event like this, what is the importance of speaking about the right to life and the daily afflictions of favela residents resulting from the “war on drugs”? How do you see the relationship between public health and public security in favelas?

Patrícia Evangelista: The “war on drugs” is the excuse given by society—by means of the government agencies responsible for public security—to commit all types of violence and rights violations in favelas. These include the violation of [residents’] right to come and go in these territories and to move around in other parts of the city. The politics of the “war on drugs” serves to commit genocide of the favela population and keep residents under control—preferably isolated in the favela, preventing their movement within the city.

EC: Based on your experiences and daily life in Manguinhos, working alongside social movements and debating justice and rights, what do you believe should be included in the final document of ABRASCÃO in order to directly impact the health of people living in favelas? 

Evangelista: In my understanding, I believe that it is not possible to create justice, rights, and especially health in favelas without the effective participation of those who live in these places. Favelas arose from people’s need to create an alternative form of housing in a society that does not guarantee the basic necessary conditions to lead a healthy life for the vast majority of people. We have a society that is structured around the concentration of wealth, which produces extreme social inequality. This social injustice, which produces favelas, ends up characterizing them as territories in which the population suffers from intense and continuous rights violations—where people live in a reality lacking the basic conditions for a healthy life. Territories in which a state of oppression and a state of exception reign. [The document should] show the inequalities that are also produced by public services, and show that structural violence is ingrained in our daily lives.

EC: And how do you see the participation of Manguinhos residents at the conference?

Evangelista: Participation of Manguinhos residents in the activities at ABRASCÃO was restricted to eight people registered by the Manguinhos Intersectoral Steering Council. These individuals were audience members at the event, aside from three or four residents who were invited to participate on panels. Invitations were extended to these individuals not for being residents of Manguinhos but for other reasons, including their contributions to discussions on the topics debated in the panels. This lack of collective participation on the part of the favela of Manguinhos in the event’s activities shows us that grassroots knowledge is still not valued. This deficit upset a group of residents and workers from Manguinhos and gave rise to the organization of “The Favela Occupies ABRASCÃO.” I considered the activity an excellent opportunity to potentially bring the reality of Manguinhos, the area hosting the event, closer to ABRASCÃO 2018. As in other favelas in Rio de Janeiro, residents have much to say about the theme of this conference: “Strengthening SUS, Rights, and Democracy.” And of course, I had to spread the word about this activity at the end of my speech in the ABRASCÃO 2018 opening panel.

“The Favela Occupies ABRASCÃO” included a discussion group and the exhibition of a documentary about the floods that frequently inundate Manguinhos, accompanied by a collectively organized breakfast on the morning of July 28. During the conversation, participants discussed the dynamics of health and disease in favelas and the ways in which violence—in its diverse manifestations—affects residents’ health. At the end, a document was produced containing proposals to address these health issues and other social, political, and cultural issues affecting the favela.

See a portion of the conversation that we streamed on our Facebook page below:

This article was written by Edilano Cavalcante and produced in partnership between RioOnWatch and Fala Manguinhos! (Speak Up Manguinhos!). Cavalcante is coordinator of the community communication agency Fala Manguinhos!. As a community communication initiative produced by and for Manguinhos, Fala Manguinhos! was set up to defend human and environmental rights, and to promote citizenship and health with the direct participation of residents in the decisions that involve the Community Communication Agency of Manguinhos, from the meetings of the communication group and the Community Council. Follow Fala Manguinhos on Facebook here.