Brasilien: Givânia Maria da Silva

Peace is not individual, it is collective. We, Quilombolas, fight for the right to live in the land that aggregated our people for centuries. Our land is our root, our history.

— Givânia Maria da Silva

Givânia Maria da Silva (1966) is threatened to be killed. The fear of losing her life so early, in a country that had already killed Chico Mendes, Dorothy Stang and many other leaders, does not discourage her. She fights for the retake and legalization of the Quilombos–secular rural communities secretly organized by former slaves–and against racism. She is an educator and is on her second political terms as town councilor in Salgueiro, countryside of Pernambuco.

Six Afro-Brazilian women, running away from the slavery, arrived at the hinterland of Pernambuco. The group grew and gave origin to the quilombo called Conceição das Crioulas. 200 years later, Givânia Maria da Silva was born, first woman from her community to receive a university diploma–she graduated in Arts and in Portuguese Literature–and to occupy a political post. She attended school up to the fourth grade of elementary school at Conceição das Crioulas. After, she enrolled herself in a weekend course for laic teachers. She gave lessons to the community. At the end of the 1980s, she wrote with her students a project about the history of Conceição das Crioulas. “It was when we found out that we were a Quilombo.” In 1992, she and some friends organized, in association with the Unified Afro-Brazilian Movement, the first meeting of Afro-Brazilians of the hinterland. In 1995, they helped to organize in Brasilia the first meeting between Quilombola representatives from the entire country. In the year 2000, it was created the National Coordination of Quilombos Communities (Conaq), of which she is one of the coordinators. On that same year, Conceição das Crioulas received the title of proprietorship. Messages like “we will fill her mouth with bullets” do not intimidate her. She was elected town councilor (2000), and she was re-elected in 2004. Conceição das Crioulas, where around 3000 people live currently, has a school that teaches from grade five to grade eight, water tanks, family health programs. But the region still suffers with the lack of water in the drought period; there is no land for many families and no jobs for the youngsters. “The government needs not only to give back lands to the Afro-Brazilians, but also to provide a life with dignity.”

Comissão Nacional de Articulação das Comunidades Negras Rurais Quilombolas (National Coordination of Quilombos Communities)