Gisele Martin is Voice of the future, has the right to live in peace.
Saturday at 9 o'clock, she arrives. She is thin and not too tall. 26 years old, but still looks like a girl with her beautiful smile, rather than a grown up woman. We walked together to the headquarters of the newspaper “O Cidadão da Maré” – which means ‘Citizen of the Tide’ – where she volunteers as a journalist.
Her name is Gizele de Oliveira Martins. She lives at the “Complex of the Tide” (Complexo da Maré) and has worked at the newspaper since its beginning, eleven years ago. Everyone who works at the newspaper is a volunteer. This brings difficulties because the newspaper activities are very time-consuming and the volunteers also need to find time to have a paid job.
Gisele was born and raised in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. Her personality is strong. She has gone through several difficulties throughout her life, but this only made her stronger.
For four years she took the exam to get into university, but was not approved. She took classes in a project aimed at preparing people from the community to take the university exam and has later on volunteered at the same project helping other students to enter college. She finally won a scholarship and chose to study journalism. “I did not see myself represented in mainstream media. Therefore, when I got to know “The Citizen” I asked to join the team. I fell in love with community communication”, Gisele declares.
Always concerned with social causes, Gisele is investing in her career as a journalist to give a voice to her community. She has worked for the past two years as the editor of “The Citizen”.
Her professional choice changed her life. She became a role-model in her community. When a resident finds a problem or suffers some kind of discrimination, he or she calls and asks Gisele for advice and orientation or even suggests a story.
“The Citizen” newspaper is located in northern Rio de Janeiro, in the “Complex of the Tide”. The ‘complex’ has 130,000 inhabitants, representing a total of 16 slums (or “favelas”). Most residents are migrants from the north and northeastern regions of Brazil. Although ‘favelas’ are stigmatized in Brazil for its poverty and lack of infrastructure, the streets are very clean and then trade is organized and varied.
“The Citizen” circulates among the ‘favelas’ promoting local integration, even though the drug lords are different in each community and sometimes rivals, which can represent a huge challenge for the newspaper.
The newspaper is independent. It is not subject to the drug lords or the government. Its team is strong and advocates for the victims of violence, although this frequently means the team is threatened by the powerful ones in the complex.
When I asked Gisele what led her to choose the newspaper as her career, she replies with a smile and the confidence of a warrior: “I’m talking about me, my causes, my dreams. I am part of this community. What affects them, affects me. The most important thing is to seek the true representation of what we – slum residents – are”.
“The Citizen” has the role of fostering local culture, giving value to the people from the community and to advocate for human rights in the local level. Gisele says that this is not done in mainstream media vehicles. “The mass media always refers to slum residents (“favelados”) as if we were all criminals, lazy, dirty and worthless. We are seen as guilty for our own existence. Community communication does the exact opposite”, she affirms.
Gisele says that every team member has a defined function in the newspaper. In her opinion, for a newspaper to work well the team members must respect the hierarchy. Members can be sympathetic to others by giving suggestions and helping out however they can, but it is important to respect the final decisions of the person responsible for that activity. To be part of the team, one does not have to live at the ‘complex’. It is enough to believe in the newspaper’s relevance and be responsible.
The newspaper’s topics are suggested by the team and ‘complex’ residents. The different topics must be of interest to local residents of the community. The team votes in order to choose the topics for the following issue.
Gisele complements: “We invest in training new readers. Thus schools are included in the distribution of the newspaper. The teachers use the newspapers in their classes so that current issues and things that happen in the community are studied by the children."
In 2008, the newspaper conducted a survey in the slums to discover the profile of its readers. It was discovered that “The Citizen” serves the needs of children, youth, adults and seniors: it serves the community as a whole. The interest is due to the internal structure of newspaper. There are articles on hobbies, recipes, articles, health and cultural issues.
“The Citizen” is supported by the people from the slums that make up the complex. "The community has embraced the newspaper. When a resident finds sheets of the newspaper on the floor, they come to us and ask our team to pay more attention who we delivering it to", says Gisele.
“The Citizen”’s team is composed of only three people. A few challenges they face are insufficiency of office materials and lack of money. There were four pages dedicated to advertisements. Today they no longer have these ads, since the newspaper suffers from long delays. The money raised was used to keep the distributors and to buy the paper and office materials, as well as to pay the van carrying the newspapers in the main distribution points of the community."
Around 20,000 copies of the paper are distributed in the slums of the ‘complex’. In order to keep it, a graphic store makes a monthly donation, but the team is unable to maintain production on account of having to work to survive and also due to lack of adequate equipment.
As the Complex of the Tide is very large, six young people are paid to distribute the newspaper in the slums. The money comes from donations of the team members themselves.
When asked about what was the most important issue about women in the community that they had written about, she answered with a smile: “Many. We have written about STDs, sexuality, contraception, health and hygiene, children’s education, violence against women and children, loss of children due to violence etc.”
Gizele majored in journalism, she concluded her college education. She is definitely a winner. In her thesis, she told the story of two people who lived in her community. A 3 year old boy and a girl, who were both shot dead by the police, in a cross fire with the drug lords. Her thesis got the highest grade, which shows she is a journalist prepared to give a voice to her community and the periphery of Rio de Janeiro.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.
The text was written in Portuguese and translated into English by Google translator, the context of the interview is a slum in Rio de Janeiro.
Gizele has the desire to be paid and work as a journalist in the newspaper "The Citizen of the Tide" doing their communication within the favela. "Do not know yet how to get financial resources to maintain the professional and the newspaper."
We talked a lot about the possibilities on a workshop in 2012 where I will pass on to the community learning acquired by favela WordPulse.
As for my plans is to promote the various slums that what I learned working with Word Press, offering the community a better way to publicize the issues that plague it.