Brazil is facing a severe political and economic crisis, in part as a result of the mega corruption scandal that erupted in 2014 and affected most Latin American countries. Brazil’s conservative movement has been gaining strength in the past decade, with evangelicals now controlling a fifth of the Lower House of Congress, as well as a significant portion of the national media. Conservatives want to turn back the clock on advances Brazil had made, including on gender equity and comprehensive sexuality education. Brazil has also seen an increase in the levels of violence in recent years, with a national murder rate that has climbed to 30 per 100,000 citizens. Violence is associated to drug and gang activity, and the vast majority of violence victims are young, black, male, and poor, often living in favelas where gang warfare is most pronounced.
Presidential elections took place in Brazil in early October. Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing candidate, won the first electoral round, with 46% of the vote versus 29% for Fernando Haddad, the left-wing Workers’ Party candidate. Mr. Bolsonaro, a controversial and divisive figure that is known for making racist and homophobic comments, including equating homosexuality with pedophilia, won the second round by a landslide, with his party becoming the largest force in Congress. Bolsonaro is expected to implement pro-market economic policies, combined with a conservative social agenda backed by the evangelical movement.
Rio de Janeiro, the state where CEPIA is located, faces significant challenges. The city is increasingly affected by drug and police violence (in parts of Rio de Janeiro, under military intervention since February 2018, the murder rate is as high as 140 per 100,000 people). In the first semester of 2017, 4 million students were unable to attend school dueto violence on the streets. In 2014, the state of Rio de Janeiro recorded a daily average of 15 reported rapes, with 64% of female survivors being under the age of 17. Another serious challenge is the high rate of adolescent pregnancy, which is significantly worse in slums. Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing perpetuate a cycle of poverty and exclusion for young mothers, with far-reaching impacts on health, education, and economic development, including for the child and the community as a whole.
CEPIA was founded in 1990 in Rio de Janeiro by Jacqueline Pitanguy, a sociologist and former president of Brazil’s National Council on Women’s Rights, and Leila Linhares, a lawyer and former Research Director of the Brazilian Lawyer’s Bar. CEPIA contributes to the strengthening of democracy, social justice and gender equality with the goals of: a) eradicating social inequalities based on gender, race/ethnicity; b) expanding knowledge of sexual and reproductive rights and access to related facilities and services by women and young people; c) fighting gender-based violence and expanding and democratizing access to justice for women and young people. CEPIA led the advocacy efforts on the Law on Domestic Violence against Women, which resulted in the Maria da Penha Law, passed in 2006 (and continues to monitor its implementation in a joint effort with security and justice institutions), as well as the Law on Femicide, passed in 2015. In 2015, CEPIA developed a national course on the Maria da Penha Law via mobile phone in partnership with a company on mobile education and VIVO, the telecommunication company, which was accessed by more than 1,300 users.
EMpower’s 3rd grant will enable CEPIA to implement workshops on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), violence prevention, and gender equality in three public schools, benefiting 240 students aged 13-17, as well as 35 teachers in marginalized neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. The proposed work will be carried out under the umbrella of a recently established partnership between CEPIA and Rio de Janeiro’s Municipal Department of Education, which will help institutionalize the initiative in schools.
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