This pilot aimed to enable distant witnesses to provide solidarity on the one hand, but also to enable Women In Action to show how their own community in solidarity works. The choice to cover it was proposed by Papo Reto. They wanted to show the relation between how violence impacts children and school, and how they continue to do this work amid violence, as well as the role of women’s support groups and mental health support. As part of the livestream they did two interviews, neither of which was “heavy” or denouncing abuses, but they talked regarding public security issues in a cultural event – a reflection that every action in favelas is inherently about human rights and resistance. The Collective also knows from experience that within their own community, when they document and livestream, community member like it when they mix issues and engage people rather than just denounce abuses.
All around Alemão and other favelas in Rio, women organize these kinds of community-spirited events for children, especially on the holidays.
As some of our distant witnesses noted: “Women are the backbone of the community in Complexo do Alemao, as in many places around the world. They are often the ones who run volunteer efforts like these”.
These kind of events bring community together and strengthen solidarity. This is particularly important in Alemão, where government has a long record of neglecting real needs and daily life is often violently interrupted by police activity.
Complexo do Alemão is a group of favelas in Rio de Janeiro with 69.413 residents in 2010, according the last Brazilian census. In 2011, Alemão received a Pacifying Police Unit but it didn’t solve the regular conflicts there. During the military intervention in Rio de Janeiro last year, the Rio’s initiative Fogo Cruzado registered 463 gun shootings around 177 schools in the city. In 2017, it was 169.
The group of women was created to act from inside the favela, since the government and traditional NGOs were not being effective to tackle local demands. They have helped families during conflicts or disasters and emergency and also organize grassroots events to gather together the community during the main holidays.
During the 2019 Easter, they wanted to bring together kids, parents and people from outside in order to show how they could work better together and what they were capable to do by themselves, with their own initiative.
Events like this strengthen the community’s ability to work together and highlight the demands for territory in the voice of the residents themselves. During the streaming, the Women in Action Group of Alemao explained the story of the emergence of their community organization initiative, given the inadequacy of the traditional entities / structures.
They spoke about how they have no political affiliation, and do not accept money from anyone, because this would make their activities suspect. That’s a really important subtext, where people are often suspicious of the motivations for actions like this – too often politicians organize events like this to buy votes from the very numerous favela population. Keep in mind that everyone is required to vote in Brazil.
“We don’t associate with political parties, and we don’t take cash donations. We only take in-kind donations – like, people can buy milk and donate to us, but we won’t take money”, explained Camila dos Santos.
To keep up with more events and stories coming from these communities, you can take a look on the Facebook page from Coletivo Papo Reto and others collectives from Complexo do Alemão, like Voz das Comunidades.
Based on this experience and feedback from the participants (which you can read below), we will continue improving the process of connecting activists with solidarity opportunities in real time through livestreams. Follow our work on livestream and co-present storytelling for action.
The event started within the expected time period, and those distant witnesses with a phone got an alert when it started on Facebook. We had to manually send the link to the stream within the platform to those using their laptops because the notification functionality only works on phones.
They then saw the festivities: people dancing, singing and eating. We already had explained a bit what the event was going to be about, and so distant witnesses were able to provide background information to what was happening, ask questions and send messages of support, sometimes reminded to do so by alert messages we would send. As Papo Reto interviewed some of the leaders from the Women in Action In Alemão group, depending on the topic that was being discussed, we would also ask questions to our distant witnesses so they could enrich the conversation with other types of information. We would ask if they had experienced events like these and why are they important. When the interviewees talked about housing or policing issues, we would ask distant witnesses if these resonates with experience closer to home.
Here are anonymous quotes based on the feedback we got from the distant witnesses that participated:
A contextualizer would have liked to have been able to contribute more:
The context would depend on what was being translated at the moment: hard to determine what type of information was relevant to contribute in a particular time. Also, some participants felt like they were “getting lost on translation”.
If the contextualizer only spoke English, would only be able to access internationally-focused research or news, so that also limited the type of context that could be given.
A contextualizer would have wanted more time to figure out research and the platform:
People want to participate and be helpful, but sometimes they don’t know how what they know is relevant or important. It is easier for people to know how to contribute if there is a specific ask from them, so the alerts help in this regard. You also need someone to take the initiative first so others feel comfortable following and adding their own contributions. We had participants with some first-hand knowledge of the community, but it would have been better to have a local perspective in the mix as well to interact with the other distant witnesses and guide these conversations. When prompted to ask questions or send messages of support, the distant witnesses didn’t hesitate to do so, but doing research and finding relevant information was more time consuming and harder to do well. Having someone from the community coordinate the tasks to be done (and the information needed) might have make it easier for distant witnesses to find what was needed and at the same time connect directly with frontline witnesses beyond what they were observing. This has been the plan with the platform originally, and ideally Coletivo Papo Reto or the Women’s in Action In Alemão group would have been the ones messaging with the distant witnesses directly.