Brazil

Football helps girls in Brazil put exploitation behind them

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© UNICEF Brazil/2007/Versiani
Girls in Brazil play football as part of a UNICEF-supported programme to help them overcome social barriers.

At the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China in September, UNICEF and longstanding partner FIFA will launch a campaign highlighting the key role that sport and child-friendly schools play in helping girls overcome social barriers and transform their lives. This is one in a series of stories about young women around the world.

OLINDA, Brazil, 31 August 2007 – For 15 years, UNICEF Brazil has supported the Environment and Citizenship Project here in the city of Olinda. Developed by the municipal government, the project offers sport- and music-related activities to girls and boys who have been involved in child labour or are in danger of being exploited.

Some 1,500 children currently participate in the project, of whom approximately half are girls. Many of the youths previously eked out a living at a garbage disposal site in Olinda.

Working in collaboration with Brazil’s Second Half programme – which organizes after-school sports for children – the Environment and Citizenship Project provides opportunities to take part in music, dance and football. Participants receive financial aid through Brazil’s existing programme to eradicate child labour.

‘The boys want the field’

Vanessa da Silva Oliveira, 14, a former child labourer, is one of the girls involved in the dance activities. She is also a player on the Olinda girls’ football team, having been trained by a coach from the Environment and Citizenship Project.

In the beginning, Vanessa had to fight discrimination from the boys. “The boys want the field to be only for them,” she says.

Through her day-to-day efforts and determination, however, she is proving that girls are also capable of scoring goals.

Life on the streets

Vanessa’s biological mother wanted to give her away when she was born, but her grandmother took her in. Her mother was later murdered, and Vanessa hasn’t seen her father for a long time now.
 
“I used to sell hair clips downtown,” she recalls of her past life on the streets. “Sometimes I took the money and spent all of it to buy hamburgers, hot dogs and snacks. Those days I wouldn’t come back home so my grandmother couldn’t scold me.”

On the soccer pitch, however, Vanessa is able to put all that behind her.


 

 

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