Global Resources

New forms of citizenship: democracy, family, and community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Author: J. Wheeler
Publisher: Oxfam
Publication Date: Jan 2003
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, many families live in illegal land occupations (favelas), housing projects and working-class suburbs. In the daily lives of most of these families, little change has been experienced under democracy as opposed to dictatorship. For some, life is more defined by violence related to drug-trafficking. This distance from the state has resulted in an interpretation of citizenship based on the survival of their families and communities, rather than on individual rights. Participants describe their active citizenship through community participation, in activities such as building a community centre. The notion of community citizenship is also underscored by a focus on supporting one's family. For example, as neo-liberal reforms are advanced, women are increasingly entering the market economy to support their families' income. This has led to a transition in gender relations where men are taking on more reproductive responsibilities (although these do remain largely the domain of women). Another central element to citizenship identified by participants is dignity. For example, they cite poor treatment and disrespect in public service provision as well as a reduction in such services, as a violation of their citizenship rights.