Capacity building for full participation in civic life

This program aims to address social and political issues through community participation and empowerment.

Children in Brazil

About the program

The Capacity Building for Full Participation in Civic Life program, run by the Movimemto de Defesa do los Favelados (MDF) and supported by Caritas Australia, works in the favelas (slums) of Brazil’s Sao Paulo.

A young man from a favela (slum) in Sao Paulo, Brazil

While Brazil is Latin America’s largest economy, there is a significant imbalance in the country's distribution of wealth. Mass migration to cities to find work has resulted in the growth of favelas. Many families who live in the favelas are unemployed or underemployed, live in crowded conditions and have little access to opportunities to improve their situation. With a strong trade in narcotics within the favelas, armed gangs control much of community life.

This program aims to address social and political issues through community participation and empowerment. MDF offers legal education and support to communities to obtain land titles and land ownership. It also works to provide access to clean water, sanitation, and important infrastructure such as community and childcare centres.

MDF encourages representation and participation by shanty town dwellers in municipal and state governments. It offers capacity building initiatives such as adult literacy and leadership programs to achieve this aim.

As part of the program, the Centro de Culturas runs art programs in the favelas, where young people can channel their passion and creativity into meaningful outcomes. Mentoring is an important part of the program and the young people develop a sense of dignity, self-worth, self-respect and respect for others. The art workshops give young people a chance to develop skills and contribute to the wellbeing of the entire community.

In 2011, MDF introduced a pilot module to the program that uses multimedia as a tool for countering the culture of drugs and violence of the favelas.

Maristely's story

Like many in São Paulo, Brazil, 18 year-old Maristely lives in a favela (city slum).

She works with Caritas Australia’s partner Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents to improve living conditions within her community.

Read Maristely's story »

Program details

  • Issues: Education; Health; Women and development; Food security and agriculture
  • Partner Agency: Movimento de Defesa do los Favelados 
  • Funding in 2014/15 financial year: US $50,000
  • Geographic location: Sao Paulo
  • When established: 1997