Making their voices heard in Rio de Janeiro

April 27, 2012
"We brought a school into our community…" "We started a youth radio show to educate teens. They are now sharing the information with their peers…" "We held a public awareness campaign to raise awareness about bullying. Young people now see that small actions lead to violence…" "I am in university to become a teacher so that I can teach young people that we need to be present, we need to grow and speak up for ourselves.  We need to express what we want for the future..." "We didn’t want to wait for change – we wanted it to begin!"

Youth and Community Leaders with guests from Prudential Financial and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in Morro dos Prazares, a favela in Rio de Janeiro.

The term "rights" is so broad and so charged that I didn’t have a strong understanding of it before.  Then, I listened to teenagers from Rio de Janeiro talk about fighting for their rights. Seeing the world through the eyes of Bruna, Landerson, and other youth and community leaders at Brazil’s Urban Platform Program, I was reminded how I take many of my rights for granted. But taking rights for granted isn’t an option for young people living in poverty. For them—and for all of us—rights are everyday needs that we all deserve. Through the Urban Platform Program, young people and adult community leaders from 66 communities throughout Rio de Janeiro have spent the past three years being trained in the skills of communications, advocacy, community organizing, and leadership.  This intensive work takes place in Rio and São Paolo’s favelas, which are some of the most notorious urban slums in the world.  Using the skills learned through the Urban Platform Program, youth are demanding their rights. And their rights are being fulfilled more and more in the favelas. 

Bruna and Landerson with Sharon Taylor, Senior Vice President, and Chris Cooper, President, International Investment Business, Prudential Financial.

It takes a forward-thinking company to recognize the importance of this work and we are grateful to have The Prudential Foundation as a partner supporting the Urban Platform Program. As one of the initial funders of the program, they have stood beside us and witnessed the progress that has taken place. Prudential has shared the excitement of the improvements happening in each community and of the young leaders that are now making change in their city. When they joined this recent visit to Rio de Janeiro, they shared my awe at the young people who are making their voices heard. After this inspiring trip to Rio, I am spending a little more time thinking about my own rights and the rights of children in Rio’s favelas and around the world.