In Brazil, 6 out of 10 people know a woman who has been a victim of violence. Abuse against girls and women is ingrained in many Brazilian communities and is widely accepted as a result. It affects the choices girls make and stops them from pursuing their ambitions.
Experiencing violence as a child
Charlienne, 17, from São Luís, grew up witnessing extreme domestic violence. “My father was always rude and he’d beat my mother. It affected me because to see a life like this is not good for anyone,” says Charlienne.
To me, anything men can do, women can do too. We are equal
Raimunda, Charlienne’s mother, adds, “He didn’t know how to talk, he only knew how to beat me. Once I woke up to find a gun against my head.”
Charlienne’s story is not uncommon for girls from Maranhão in Brazil, a region characterised by violence and teen pregnancy.
“I didn’t want to get married so young. I was 16. Four months later, I was pregnant. Now I live with my 19-year-old husband and his family,” she says.
Brazil is ranked fourth in the world for the number of girls married to or living with a partner by the age of 15*, according to research by Plan International Brazil, Pro Mundo and Brazil's Federal University of Para. In Maranhão, it is especially common.
Child marriage linked to violence
In Brazil, early marriage is firmly linked to gender-based violence. Plan International Brazil Programme Director, Luca Sinesi, says, “Our research reveals that finding a partner is the easiest and only way to escape violence for many girls. It’s not necessarily their choice, but it is their only option.”
Charlienne is determined to have a violence-free relationship. “Our relationship is good. We do fight but we always try and talk through our issues. If my husband was to beat me, I would report him to the police. Violence against women should not be tolerated.”
With support from Plan International Brazil, Charlienne has been learning how to stay safe and combat violence in her community.
“Plan International Brazil has taught me about violence against women, sexual violence and violence amongst teenagers. I’ve learnt many good things and made new friends. I now feel confident to speak up for my rights.”
Charlienne feels strongly about the issue and has taken on a champion’s role to educate other girls and women about their rights. She also discusses the importance of equality with men in her community.
“Whatever I learn from Plan International, I pass it on to my family and friends. I like to share so others can learn as well – including men.
“Yesterday, my brother-in-law said women can’t do the same things as men, even though he attended an awareness workshop. It’s not on, so I questioned him about it. To me, anything men can do, women can do too. We are equal.”
Charlienne is hopeful that attitudes are changing. “I hope the future is going to be good for Brazil. I want to see an end to machismo, an end to violence against women and an end to rape.”
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