Although Brazil is often considered a rising economic power, poverty levels in many parts of this Latin American country remain high. In Brazil's northeast, child prostitution is on the rise as children from marginalised families are lured into commercial sex work.
What we do in Igarassu
SOS Children's Villages has been working in Igarassu since 2007. The holistic package of support programmes which we offer has been greatly appreciated by the local community. These services include the support of families who are at risk of breaking apart, loving homes for children who have lost parental support completely, counselling, workshops and psychological support. At our two SOS Social Centres here, we offer family strengthening programmes that aim to strengthen existing family ties so that children can grow up in their own loving family. We have been supporting families and their communities by strengthening their economic autonomy and self-reliance, trying to prevent family break-ups that may happen as a result of poverty or dysfunctional family structures.
Our activities focus on building self-esteem, improving gender relations and preventing domestic violence. Mothers are given the opportunity to leave their children in our child care centre during the day so that they can go to work and earn a living for themselves and their children.
Furthermore, counselling and psychological support is offered. At the SOS Social Centre, local residents also receive free medical assistance, including dental services.
When children can no longer stay with their birth families they can find a loving home in one of the twelve SOS families. The SOS mothers provide the children with a loving, stable and supportive environment.
In Igarassu, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is still widespread
Igarassu is a town in Brazil's state of Pernambuco, located around 32 kilometres from Recife, the fourth largest city in Brazil. Nearly 25 per cent of the population of Recife is under the age of 15. Poverty marks the lives of tens of thousands in the area who are without medical infrastructure, sanitation and decent housing. Because of economic hardship, many families send their children out to work when they are as young as five years old.
Homicide rates in Brazil are traditionally higher than in most other Latin American countries, in particular among young males between 15 and 19 years of age with little or no educational background. Walking the streets of Recife after dusk can be extremely dangerous: the city is marked by the second highest murder rate in the country after Rio de Janeiro.
Roughly one third of the population has to live on less than half the country's minimum wage. A rising number of children in the north-east of Brazil are being forced into prostitution as a result of poverty and a lack of family care. Having lost the care of their parents, many of these children have no one to turn to. Many end up on the streets where their lives are marked by illicit drug abuse and violence. According to reports, children aged ten or sometimes even younger are lured into Recife's commercial sex industry, where demand from North American and European sex tourists is ever increasing.
Around one third of Recife's street children have never attended school. Without a basic level of education, their chances of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty once they become adults are fairly slim.
SOS Children's Village provides support to families in need
The north-eastern part of Brazil has not yet been able to benefit much from the economic boom that Brazil has been experiencing lately. Many people from all over the region move to Recife and its suburbs in search of work and a better life. However not all of them find employment, and with the unemployment rate being so high, tens of thousands have to earn their money in the informal sector where protection and workers' rights are often nothing but wishful thinking. Due to the precarious situation they face, many parents are simply not able to care for their children. In order to support these struggling families, SOS Children's Villages decided to start working in Igarassu, in order to give their children a brighter future.