Brazil has the second highest adolescent homicide rate in the world after Nigeria, with more than 10,500 young people under the age of 19 murdered in 2013 compared to 5,000 cases in 1993, a 110% increase.1 In Rio de Janeiro, 59% of deaths of young people ages 14-19 can be attributed to firearms2 with the majority being male and black. The high levels of violence and homicides can be largely attributed to the ongoing armed conflict between rival drug factions and clashes with the police. According to Amnesty International, between 2005-2014, 8,471 cases of killings by police officers on duty were registered in Rio. Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro encompasses 16 favelas – 3 of Rio’s principal drug factions are active within this complex of favelas. They compete for domination and employ children as lookouts, drug sellers, and foot soldiers. Despite this, 96% of youth in Maré have no direct involvement in organized crime. 68% of 15-24 year-olds in Maré have not graduated from primary school, are not currently in school, and are not working in the formal or informal labour market. Exceptionally atrisk youth from Maré who are seeking to earn educational qualifications and find decent work encounter few opportunities to do so.
Luta was founded in 2000 by Luke Dowdney, the current Executive Director, as a community outreach center and martial arts academy designed to prevent child and youth participation in crime and violence and to give young people already involved in the drug trade a way out. Luta’s mission is to use boxing and martial arts combined with education and personal development to help young people in communities that suffer from high levels of crime and violence to realize their potential and find alternative ways to spend their time. In Rio, Luta works in Complexo da Maré , known for drugs and gangs, and over the years has expanded from working in one favela to working in three through satellite facilities. Luta has a “Five Pillars” model offering: sports for health; education for a future; promoting a culture of peace through social action; access to the labor market; and youth leadership. Young people who participate in Luta’s programs receive intensive instruction in boxing, martial arts and/or other sports, life skills and computer literacy classes, access to tutors in school subjects and social workers, support for job placement, and opportunities for participation in Luta’s youth leadership council.
Primary Location: Rio de Janeiro
Funded Since: 2008
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