Brazil: Margarida Genevois

Peace will only be achieved if we prepare people to be Citizens of the World, responsible for a true and effective democracy, for Justice.

— Margarida Genevois

Human rights are, for Margarida Genevois (1923), just like air. The lack of them is suffocating. During the brutal military regime in Brazil, she hid political prisoners, helped several of them go into exile, informed international organizations of the arbitrary actions. After democracy was restored, she kept denouncing injustices. She has worked for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, for 25 years. Presently, she is part of a national project on human rights education.

Electric shocks, drowning, ‘Pau de Arara’ (suspension by the knees and arms from a metal bar): barbaric torture methods of the military regime prisons. Methods which Margarida Genevois heard of in the 1970s, when the Catholic Church opened its doors to persecuted people, at the time when she started working for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of São Paulo. One of her tasks was to welcome desperate people coming from the whole country. They were victims in search of a hiding place and a way to leave the country. “A lot of them used to be ashamed of talking about their experiences, due to the horribleness and cruelty.” That world was unknown to the sociologist Margarida until then. She married a successful businessman and moved to Campinas, in the countryside of São Paulo. There, she introduced daycares, a child welfare center and a mother's club for the workers. In 1967, back in São Paulo, she created Veritas–a center for political education for middle-class women. Five years later, after accepting an invitation of Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns to be part of the newly created Justice and Peace Commission, she began the never-ending fight for human rights. She faced death threats, faced politicians. She crossed borders to support dictatorship victims in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Brazil is, once again, a democratic country, and Margarida Genevois is still present wherever human rights are disrespected. She has led campaigns against the National Security Law, against the death penalty and for the Amnesty. Gentle, but strong, she still believes human beings can change. In 1994, she participated in the creation of the Brazilian Network for Human Rights Education. “We give courses to instigate reflection, constructive criticism and tolerance towards differences.”

Rede Brasileira de Educação em Direitos Humanos (Brazilian Network for Human Rights Education)