Article by Elisa Lamego.
On Thursday 23 July, Rio de Janeiro over 400 people marched from Candelaria Church to Cinelandia in support of children’s rights and especially children’s safety, remembering the Candelaria massacre of street children 22 years before and demanding the safeguarding of children’s rights. Echoing through the city of Rio, children led the chants of “Candelaria never more” and “No violence” with a crowd of about 400 people uniting behind them.
July 23, 1993. A dark day in the history of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. That night, as during many others, a group of about 60 people – children and adolescents in its majority – slept on the streets in the surroundings of Candelaria Church, Centre of Rio de Janeiro. Before the clock struck midnight, two cars pulled over and off duty policemen opened fire against the children and youth.
This incident is now known as the Candelaria Massacre, when seven children and one young adult were killed by the police and several others were injured.
Street Child United joined last week’s march in support of street children as we do each year. However, this year two themes came to the surface; the number of children dying at the hands of the state and the new law the Government is trying to pass to lower the criminal age of responsibility to 16. The latter would mean a disproportionate number of street children being placed into adult prisons.
National Campaign Criança Não é de Rua – a movement for the rights of street children in Brazil – and its network composed of 600 non-profits around the country took the matter into their hands and decided to use the march not just in remembrance of those that have fallen by street violence but also as a protest for those still living and facing daily assaults to their rights. The National Campaign stresses “punishment is not the answer to the rise of crime in Brazil”.
Education, rehabilitation and more opportunities are key in order to change the realities of these young people. Let us all give these children a platform and a voice before judging. Let us all be for more rights that all children should be entitled to and less for blind punishment.
“No child should have to live on the streets. I commend the Street Child World Cup for providing a platform for the rights of street children to be heard.”
“It was a privilege to be invited to the launch of the Street Child World Cup at Downing Street. It gives children a voice through football, sales a platform to express their rights and celebrate their abilities – I’m proud to add my support.”
“When ever people come across me they laugh. It seems like my mouth is zipped because they talk for us. I wish they could give us a chance to talk for ourselves.”