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In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 11,000 women are ‘peace workers’, devoting their time to addressing the social issues facing their communities. They are leaders and participants in the National Public Security and Citizenship Program (PRONASCI), started in 2007 by Brazil’s Ministry of Justice with the purpose of spreading a “culture of peace” through activism, education, counseling and other initiatives, as IPS News reports.

Rita Lima, who runs the vocational training program, told the Interpress Agency that “Achieving peace in a violent place is only possible if it’s done through a process built by the people who live there.”

Crime, violence, poverty, injustice and other social issues plague the slums where these women live. The consequences of such instability and conflict pervade the favelas, touching everyone’s lives – either as victims, participants or both.  These women peace workers are no exception. Their experiences make them credible and better equipped to understand and reach out to their neighbors.

They know their communities – the issues that affect them as well as the people that live in them – and are deeply respected and trusted community members. For example, Cisleia Bento Rosa, who had once turned to drug dealing to support her children, now works as a youth counselor to prevent others from doing the same.

As the main caretakers of children, wage earners and community organizers, women “play an increasingly important and central role in the lives of these communities,” Social Assistance Executive Secretary Sergio Andrea said.

Many see the involvement of local women in the project as key to its success in the different communities where it has been implemented. The project has since been implemented in other cities as well.

BRAZIL: Women ‘Peace Workers’ in the Favelas-IPS News