Capoeira is helping child victims of violence and child marriage recover from trauma
“In capoeira, I have learned that girls don’t need to be afraid.”
Monapo, NAMPULA - Rhythmic clapping and chanting fill the air at the Pavilhão Municipal in Monapo, Nampula province, where around 83 children have assembled to practice capoeira, a traditional Afro-Brazilian martial art. While some children sing and clap, others are playing the pandeiro and berimbau, instruments used to create the traditional musical accompaniment for capoeira. A third group of children leap to their feet and begin dancing around the circle, executing impressive flips, and sweeping their legs from one side to the other, before returning to their places in the circle.
Many of these children have been rescued from child marriages or abusive situations, and this activity, led by Capoeira Para um Futuro (Capoeira for a Future), with support from the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, is helping them to process their experiences, to heal, build their resilience, and to rediscover their inner strength.
Approximately 150 children are enrolled in the programme in the Monapo district, in the province of Nampula, while 230 children are receiving support through similar programmes in the districts of Maganja da Costa and Milange, in the province of Zambézia.
Through music, song, movement, fun, traditional games, and capoeira movements, we gradually work to heal trauma.
Joana Vasconcelos, the Capoeira Master responsible for coordinating the programme explains its purpose and how it serves to facilitate and accelerate the healing process. “Capoeira brings a playful, happy and fun approach, through which the children slowly gain self-esteem. An environment of respect is created between all participants, helping them to start to regain trust in those around them. Through music, song, movement, fun, traditional games and capoeira movements, we gradually work to heal trauma.”
Critically, the programme includes both boys and girls, an element which Joana considers key: “Capoeira Para um Futuro is a programme that works with children rescued from child marriages or at risk of child marriage. Here in Monapo District, we work with boys as well as girls, because we recognize the importance of boys in preventing child marriage and promoting equality."
“Capoeira made me want to laugh and smile again”, says Gina, a 15-year-old girl who is taking part in the programme, after having experienced physical and psychological violence at home. Ines, a 15-year-old girl who is also supported by the programme explains how the programme has helped her. “In capoeira, I have learned that girls don’t need to be afraid,” she tells us. Helder, a 16-year-old boy talks about the sense of belonging and solidarity which he gets from being a part of the programme. “I used to be excluded in my community because I didn't do what the other boys did, now I have Capoeira and I have something special”.
As the capoeira activities draw to a close, the children begin to rest, some joining in with other activities – drawing, writing or simply taking time to talk to one other. In addition to participating in capoeira, children receive individualised psychosocial support from a psychologist whose support is arranged by ICDP, an NGO that also facilitates access to other services. This integrated approach is achieving impressive results, and it is clear from the children’s smiles, laughter, and spontaneous singing that they feel safe, empowered and happy – in many of their cases, for the first time in their lives.
This integrated programme, led by ICDP and including the Capoeira Para um Futuro activity, is carried out as part of the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage, a 15-year programme (2016-2030) to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 5.3, which aims to eliminate all harmful practices, including child marriage and focuses on 12 countries with high rates of child marriage. In Mozambique, the Global Programme focuses on six districts across Nampula and Zambezia provinces, where rates of child marriage are particularly high. The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Zonta International.