For fans of TV courtroom dramas, the word “advocate” may well evoke visions of efficient-looking and aggressive-sounding be-wigged barristers. But what it brings to my own mind is the many times I hear the word “advocacy” being used, here in the CAFOD office in London.
Today is International Human Rights Day. Esther Gillingham, CAFOD’S Brazil Programme Officer explains how CAFOD’s partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks is empowering human rights defenders and changing lives in Brazil.
CAFOD are very proud to share the news that our Brazilian partner, Justice on the Railway Tracks was presented with the first ever Human Rights and Business Foundation Award presented at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva on 27th November 2018.
They received the award for their work defending poor communities from the impacts of human rights and environmental abuses by mining companies in the Amazonian state of Maranhao in north-eastern Brazil.
This work included a 13-year long legal struggle which resulted in the landmark resettlement of the Piquia de Baixo community who have been adversely affected by a huge steel plant built right next to their community in the 1980s.
Our Connect2 Brazil narrator Neti has worked tirelessly for 10 years to help the occupants of Maua to demand their right to decent housing. Now she needs your help.
Hello CAFOD friends. I am Neti. I visited some of you in the past. I would like to ask you to pray for all of us here in the Mauá Community. We are going through some really tough times; our rights are being violated. We in the Mauá community, have spent 10 years living in this building which we have cleaned, looked after and made a home for 237 families. For years, we have been negotiating for the acquisition of this building for social housing for an affordable rent. Now we are at risk of eviction. We have not been offered an alternative. We will have to leave our homes and live in the street. I am counting on you and your prayers.”
Tony Sheen is CAFOD’s Community Participation Coordinator for Westminster Diocese. Here he looks back on a memorable visit to São Paulo’s favelas in Brazil. He explains how seeing the Church ‘in action’ defending the human rights of those in need continues to inspire him.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to visit São Paulo and meet some of the people supported by CAFOD’s partners. Early one morning I travelled with Heluiza and Osmar from our partner APOIO, to visit a shanty town to the east of the city called Electropaulo Favela, where over 1200 families live in abject poverty.
Maristely is the narrator of one of our Connect2: Brazil partners. She is currently a student in her final year at university, but alongside her studies she continues to participate in activities to defend the rights of people living in favelas and poor informal settlements with our partner, Movement for the Defence of Favelas (MDF) in São Paulo. Here Maristely talks about the 2016 Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil this summer.
“On the sporting front, there is anxiety in making sure the Olympic Games take place. But the way these Games will happen is depressing.
Since the World Cup and the Olympic Games were first announced in Brazil these kinds of mega sporting events were seen as opportunities for improvements in basic infrastructure of the country, but in the preparation process, there has been little space for civil society participation and technical experts who know about urban development were not involved in the discussions.
As the deadline approaches, there is a need for an accelerated release of funds to ensure that the games take place and that the infrastructure is ready. This leads to works that are not ready in time and rushed through quickly, resulting in the removal of poor urban inhabitants from good locations.
Esther Gillingham is CAFOD’s Brazil Programme Officer. As the Olympic Games get underway in Rio, this World Indigenous Day (9 August) Esther turns the spotlight on our work with Brazil’s indigenous peoples.
Brazil is once again under the world’s spotlight. Just two years ago, Brazil spent roughly USD3.6bn of public money on stadiums for the 2014 World Cup. Now, when 25.8 million Brazilians live in poverty, and the country is experiencing its worst political and economic crisis in decades, Brazil is hosting a second mega sporting event: the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro from 5 to 21 August.
In preparation, an estimated £3.8bn of taxpayers’ money has been spent and 77,000 people have been evicted from their homes. Here in the UK, I’ve found it difficult to ignore the headlines about the Zika virus, entrenched political corruption, and Olympics-related security breaches. But we rarely, if ever, hear about the threats posed to Brazil’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Victoria Ahmed works in CAFOD’s Education Team. She reflects on the transformative power of sport.
It has been a pretty amazing summer of sport so far. From cheering on the Wales football team to the semi-final match of the Euros, to celebrating Andy Murray’s Wimbledon championship win, I’ve been swept up in a summer of sport. So now I’m really looking forward to the biggest sporting event of the summer: the Olympics in Rio.
As August rolls around I find myself recovering from an injury. With each warmer day I feel a little bit stronger, and I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve drawn inspiration and strength from athletes. Though not particularly sporty myself, I recognise the power of sport to transform – the drive, commitment and teamwork on display this summer has definitely helped me on the road to recovery.
John McBride is CAFOD’s Learning and Development Coordinator. Here he shares his fond memories of carrying the Olympic flame for CAFOD, and about meeting some of the partners who have inspired him to continue speaking out to protect our common home.
2012 was a big year in Britain, Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, Andy Murray won at Wimbledon and Rory McIlroy won the US PGA. We also hosted the Olympic Games that proved to be a triumph. We showed the rest of the world that we were good at sports. In a small County Durham town, I made my contribution to the summer of sport by carrying the Olympic flame, representing CAFOD supporters and partners through the market town of Barnard Castle.
The Chesham Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM) group at St. Columba’s RC Church have a long history of supporting CAFOD’s work with our partners in Brazil. Starting from fundraising to supporting children in need in general, they explain how they came to be a Connect2: Brazil parish.
We have always raised money for children who were in need and following a presentation about sewer children in Mexico, we decided to change the focus to South America. Parishioners, past and present, of St. Columba’s RC Church in Chesham have regularly and for many years donated to CAFOD via the CAFOD Envelopes. CAFOD has been an organisation dearly close to our hearts and is always well supported within the parish.
In 2012, Connect2: Brazil parishes sent a petition to the São Paulo local government with 3,000 signatures, supporting families living in the Mauá building who were facing eviction. At that time, the government agreed to suspend the eviction order, and to look into converting the building into social housing. They also agreed to convert a former textile factory, Prestes Maia, in to flats. The process since then has not been smooth, with the 378 families in Prestes Maia facing another eviction order just last year, in September 2015.
Finally, a month later, following 15 years of campaigning and advocacy by homeless families and our partner, APOIO, the local government of Sao Paulo signed over more than £4 million for the compulsory purchase of the Prestes Maia building. This abandoned building in the centre of Sao Paulo hosts the second largest occupation in Latin America. This community has lived through 26 judicial eviction orders, only two of which were successful. The news of the compulsory purchase represents a fantastic victory for APOIO and the 1000 strong community, as the building is now planned to be converted into social housing. Continue reading “Connect2: Brazil – Victory for 378 families living in Prestes Maia Building”