In July 2021, Brazil reached over 500,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the second-highest number globally after the United States. WLP’s partner in Brazil, Cepia, has raised the alarm about increases in domestic violence, widening education gaps, and food insecurity, as a result of the pandemic. In an interview with Cepia team member, Kezia Sampaio, she describes her concerns about the impact of the pandemic and what she thinks young activists like herself can do about it.
Kezia is working with Cepia’s youth advocacy team and previously worked with Rap de Saúde (Network of Adolescent Health Promoters), to mobilize others to advocate for their rights. Kezia says, “My wish is that other young people could also be part of collectives and organizations that not only work for human rights, gender inequalities, power relations, but also help them to be young protagonists and to advocate for causes that they believe in.” Read more from our interview with Kezia below.
Question: Why did you become involved in advocating for equality and ending discrimination?
I usually say that it was fate. When I joined the Rap da Saúde (Network of Adolescent Health Promoters) I couldn't have imagined the type of content I would learn. When I joined, I fell in love with everything about advocacy work. I learned about social issues and became more engaged. Through RAP da Saúde, I was connected with the team at CEPIA. I was invited by the Program Coordinator to participate in a Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop on leadership. This first training with CEPIA gave my life a direction. After graduating I knew exactly what type of work I wanted to do and what kind of actions I wanted to develop on my journey. Because of that experience, I decided to specialize in issues related to women's rights and get more involved. I currently work at CEPIA and every day I feel that I grow and strengthen my beliefs. My wish is that other young people could also be part of collectives and organizations that not only work for human rights, gender inequalities, power relations, but also help them to be young protagonists and to advocate for causes that they believe in.
Question: What gender equality and/or human rights issues are you most passionate about?
I love taking care of people and empowering others so they can get out of vulnerable situations. I love supporting people’s destinies just as others supported mine. I am also passionate about working with adolescents, sharing information about their rights with them, and making them multipliers of those rights.
Question: What are some problems in society that worry you right now?
The pandemic showed us how much social inequality still is all over the world, so this is the problem that worries me the most right now. COVID-19 has highlighted a range of challenges that people experience every day, such as hunger, lack of housing, lack of employment, and structural racism.
Question: What advice would you give to others who want to make change in their community, or work for equality and human rights?
I would say that you can do anything! Each person has something inside that no one else has, that is, you can help, encourage, and push in a special way. The light that shines in you can make all the difference in a person's life. So go ahead, hold on to something that makes your heart beat more and go for it.
This interview is part of a series, which highlights how youth are leading responses to critical democracy and equality issues in their countries. WLP partners train and mentor young activists in the global women’s movement to advocate for themselves and their futures, and to seek positions of leadership and influence. All of the leaders featured in the series work with one of WLP’s 20 partners.
Olivares, P. (2021, March). Brazil women suffer in silence as COVID-19 sparks domestic terror. Reuters https://www.reuters.com/article/us-women-antiviolence-brazil-widerimage/brazil-women-suffer-in-silence-as-covid-19-sparks-domestic-terror-idUSKCN2AX26M
Reverdosa, M., Pedroso, R., & Wenzel, F. (2021, May). Brazil's economy plummets in Covid's shadow. CNN https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/28/americas/brazil-economy-covid-intl/index.html