In Brazil an estimated 15 women are killed by men every day. Within the past three decades, at least 92,000 women have been killed, many at the hands of their partners representing a rise of 230% between 1980 and 2010. The situation in Rio de Janeiro is no less alarming where 17 women a day are victims of gender-based murder and sexual violence.

This project aims to make an important contribution to understanding Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), which is one of the world’s major public health and development concerns, with a view towards reducing it in order to make the cities of Rio and London ultimately healthier as well as to develop a mutual learning partnership between the Global North and Global South.

The research explores the nature of VAWG in Rio de Janeiro with a simultaneous examination of such violence among London’s Brazilian diaspora. It develops an innovative inter-disciplinary framework that builds on the strengths of the research team to bridge geographical and disciplinary borders. It combines the analytical approach of the social sciences with the traditions of knowledge production in the humanities, and the ability of theatre to explore new relationships between authors and audiences. It recognises growing linkages between cities of the Global South and North, connected through globalisation and international migration, as well as the need to learn from cities of the South.

The research is rooted empirically in two urban locations 1) in the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, Complexo da Maré, where residents are predominantly poor and where everyday VAWG is endemic; and 2) among the diasporic community of Brazilians in London, which is one of the fastest growing migrant groups in the city and the largest component of the wider Latin American population. With limited existing systematic analysis of the nature of VAWG in either the territorial or diasporic community, the project explores the nature, causes and consequences of VAWG and the health outcomes locally and across borders.

Specifically, it uses a range of methodologies such as surveys, participatory appraisals, testimonial interviews, mapping of

service provision, theatre production and film as tools to explore what happens to women in one of Latin America’s most violent cities and examine how this violence affect linkages and movement across borders between Rio de Janeiro and London. This is facilitated through the close links the research teams have with the communities, especially through their collaborating partners – in Rio, Redes da Maré (a community organisation); in London, the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS), and the People’s Palace Project (an arts-based research centre working on London and Brazil, based at QMUL) and CASA Latin American Theatre Festival

Theoretically, the project develops new understandings of VAWG that move beyond the traditional epidemiological approach to explore how participatory appraisal and theatre in particular can uncover processes that have previously been hidden. As part of this approach, the project aims to develop a nexus (‘multi-scalar-VAWG-health-nexus’) that assists in explaining why VAWG occurs and especially how this occurs across borders, the sources of support available, and how VAWG motivates women’s movement to the UK from Brazil as well as how this affects health inequalities.

It actively considers the potential for learning from existing community interventions and especially those revolving around theatre and performance, and in creating new interventions to reduce VAWG and reduce the urban public health risks associated with it. It also devises effective tools to increase women and girls’ knowledge about their rights in relation to the experience of gender-based and everyday urban violence. Thus, it will raise awareness of VAWG transnationally as a means to strengthen and build capacity, compare experiences, promote alternative narratives and impact on policy debates in both countries.

This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Newton Fund,   and it’s part of the Urban Transformations research portfolio.

Main research activities

The research was conducted through a series of activities carried out in Rio and London

Survey with Brazilian women: online in London with 175 women; face-to-face with 801 women in Complexo da Maré, Rio de Janeiro)

In-depth testimonial interviews with Brazilian women (25 in London and 20 in Rio de Janeiro)

Focus group workshops with Brazilian women and men (six in London and seven in Rio de Janeiro)

Mapping of organisations that support women survivors of violence (with 12 organisations in London and 14 in Rio de Janeiro)

Project's Team

Prof Cathy McIlwaine (PI)
Dr Eliana Sousa Silva (CoI)
Dr Miriam Krenzinger (CoI)
Prof Paul Heritage (CoI)

Maíra Fernandes (Fieldwork coordinator)
Renata Peppl (Project Manager)
Raquel Roldanus-Dias (Arts Projects Manager)
Yara Evans (PDRA) (UK)
Aline Littlejohn (Researcher) (UK)
Gisele Martins (PDRA) (Rio)
Isabela Sousa Silva (PDRA) (Rio)
Rosana Morgado (PDRA) (Rio)
Joana Garcia (PDRA) (Rio)
Olivia West Alvarez (Student researcher)
Alba Murcia (Student researcher)
Gaël Le Cornec (artist collaborator, London)
Bia Lessa (artist collaborator, Rio de Janeiro)