When I started this blog, I had promised that it would not only be about public policy and development issues, but would also feature stories of inspiring individuals, stories of hope and human spirit. I came across one such story in the heart of a favela or slum in an enchanting city on the north eastern coast of Brazil, Salvador, the original capital of the Portuguese colony.
Enderson Araujo is a 21-year-old who grew up in Sussuarana, one of the dangerous favelas still plagued by the drug trade that swallows a lot of the young people. However, a media workshop that taught young black people communication technology and the importance of communication changed his whole life. Inspired by the power of finding a voice through communication, Enderson went on to start a weekly community newspaper called Midia Periferica.
Periferia refers to favelas that often exist at the periphery of cities often physically and also metaphorically when it comes to provision of civic amenities. Midia Periferica was meant to give voice to the periferia or favelas. “After the media workshop by the Institute of Ethnic Media, where they talked about the right to communication, I thought about the situation in my community and all its problems. I decided that we needed to give a voice to the community as the traditional mainstream media only showed the drugs, violence and police action here. That’s not all that is there to favelas. It is also a place where people live and work and I felt the need to show the positive things too,” explains Enderson.
Midia Pereferica started by telling stories from the favelas on social media like facebook. “Everything started with just a cellphone to access the internet and social networks where stories were told. Pay 50 cents and you get internet connection for the whole day. Slowly even the traditional media started using our stories and talking to us as sources and even asking us to write for them. We might not have high education, but we communicate in our own way,” says Enderson who had discontinued his studies to work to help his family. He is now studying to complete the final year of high school.
The weekly newspaper was started when they realized that the reach of social networks was limited to just the people with internet access. The newspaper is just two sides of an A4 size sheet designed using Word software, photos clicked with cellphone cameras and a 100 copies printed on a laserjet printer in the backroom of a shop, which serves as the office of Midia Periferica. The 100 copies are distributed free in Sussuarana. “We have started getting advertisements from local businesses and that is keeping us going for now. The secretary for affirmative action of Salvador has also promised us funding,” says Enderson, who is reporter, editor, publisher all rolled into one. A group of like-minded young people from the favela is also part of this venture now.
Midia Periferica draws attention to problems of bad roads, lack of health facilities, poor garbage collection and inadequate public transport facilities, problems of everyday life in Sussuarana, which mainstream media, with its one dimensional focus on drugs and violence in favelas, is said to ignore.
Moving beyond Sussuarana, Midia Periferica is trying to forge ties with other favelas across the city. Enderson and his group are constantly innovating and coming up with new ideas to give voice to the favelas. The latest is called Postcards from the Periphery where people from favelas send in their favourite images clicked in their favelas. The relatively recent project has already yielded some stunning images of favelas encouraging an entirely different way of looking at these spaces teeming with people.
Questioning the consolidation of mainstream media ownership in Brazil, Enderson and his group work to promote the democratisation of communication made possible by the internet and argue for greater plurality of voices in the media. Today, Enderson, a confident and tech savvy communicator, has come a long way from where he started two years back. He is one of the coordinators of a National Network of Adolescents and Young Communicators who appears frequently on television shows and address meetings in Rio and Brasilia on the right to communication, an inspiration for youth in favelas across the country.