A group of women in Complexo do Alemão, in the North Zone of Rio, met for the second time on Saturday June 13 to organize a women’s council that aims to discuss community issues. Around 20 women came together in the Praça do Conhecimento building in Nova Brasília to have breakfast, coffee and speak about the needs of their community.
The group is still in early stages and the women are organizing their methods of collaboration with the community. The group will meet once every month to discuss “how they can help each other,” as community leader and artist Mariluce Mariá explained.
She said: “The general objective is to create a network to strengthen other women and other movements. [We want to help] NGOs and the Neighborhood Association, so we can have strength to ask for things, to get our rights. Because sometimes, one or two people from the community go to meetings when there should be several.”
In the long run, the women hope to form a women’s council that will work “as a watchdog, with purpose and as a representative of the community,” according to Mariluce. “The proposal of the council is still a bit vague…we are [a growing] movement,” she explained.
The concerns of the women who attended included gentrification, children who have no after school activities, education, reduction of the age of criminal responsibility, police brutality towards young people and mothers who need help raising their children. The discussion happened in an informal setting, with one of the participants calling the meeting a “group therapy session” where women felt comfortable sharing personal experiences with each other as a way of identifying the main problems within their community.
The general consensus was that something must be done to support the mothers (and consequently their children) of the community who need a bit of guidance or who don’t have a lot of time to spend at home with their kids. “Family is the strongest subject of the day,” said Lúcia Cabral, teacher at EDUCAP.
The main concern were children who roam around the area of Inferno Verde, who don’t have enough to eat and spend entire days on the streets. One mother suggested the group poll together all after school activities into a list for easy access for mothers and children seeking activities.
The group also expressed concerns about the recent law that will reduce the age of criminal responsibility. The room was divided between those who are in favor and those against the change. Mariluce argued that “the poor will be more at risk” if the law changes, while one woman, who preferred not to be identified, said she was “in favor of the age of criminal responsibility being reduced but against the State because it does not provide enough education to young people.”
While everyone agreed that school was not enough to keep children off the streets, the women also brought up that the schools in the community are being monitored by the police. On top of the constant police brutality and abuse that children in Complexo do Alemão are subject to every day, their attendance in school is also being monitored by the authorities.
The meeting lasted around three hours and the conclusion was that there is lots left to discuss. The group will meet again in July to shape the council and determine next steps to helping one another.