Tuesday 22 March 2016 As Christians celebrate the gift of new life this Easter, Christian Aid is helping women in Brazil to overcome lives trapped in poverty and abuse.
Brazil has the seventh-highest rate of violence against women in the world, with a woman assaulted every 24 seconds and one murdered every two hours.
Legislation is in place to protect Brazilian women, including the Maria de Penha law that was introduced in 2006 to punish perpetrators of violence against women. In March 2015, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff launched a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women and girls, and the Brazilian Congress changed the penal code to include ‘femicide’ – defined as any crime that involves domestic violence, discrimination or contempt for women, which results in their death.
However, this legislation is often poorly implemented, leaving many women reluctant to report incidents of domestic violence.
Through its local partner organisation Anglican Service of Diaconia and Development (SADD, linked to the Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil), Christian Aid is helping women in Brazil escape domestic violence, gain independence and a new life through a small safe house, Casa Noeli dos Santos.
Casa Noeli dos Santos is the only church-run safe house in Brazil, providing refuge for women fleeing domestic violence. Opened in 2011, it is run by a dedicated female Anglican priest, Reverend Elineide Ferreiro Oliveira, 30, and can house 10 women and their children at one time, serving a population of 150,000 people from 8 different cities.
Fran, who sought refuge at Casa Noeli to escape her violent husband – who killed both her brother and father - has started a new life with the support she received from Reverend Elineide. Counselling has helped her overcome her traumatic past and she has a new, safe place to live. She has learned new skills, such as making silk flowers, which could help her find a new job and the financial independence she needs to live in safety away from danger.
“Without the safe house, I’d be dead,” said Fran, 25. “The safe house is a special place, and it’s because of this house I’m alive. If I didn’t have the house I would be in the same cycle, being beaten, threatened. The house is very important to break the cycle.”
With the support of the Episcopal Anglican Church in Brazil/SADD, Reverend Elineide is working within the local community – including churches, police stations and schools - to encourage people to speak out against domestic violence, a common occurrence that is rarely spoken about. Members of the Episcopal Anglican Church have been working in Brazil to challenge social norms that keep women trapped in the cycle of violence like this since 2008, making people aware of the violence that surrounds them.
Paulo Barasioli, Christian Aid Country Manager for Brazil, said: “Reverend Elineide, SADD and the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, and Christian Aid are working hard to support victims of domestic violence, and are challenging patriarchal social norms in Brazil to help keep women and girls safe from violence.
“Casa Noeli is concrete proof of the successes of working to prevent and cope with domestic violence. The house really shows us that it is possible to act, and it's possible to do something to stop violence against women.”
Just £23 would pay for a night at Casa Noeli dos Santos for one woman, including basic toiletries, a hot meal and a counselling session. £48 would cover the cost of teaching women new skills so they can find jobs and gain financial independence.
For information or to donate visit www.christian-aid.org.uk/easter
Notes to editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.
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5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk