A Journalist turned into a social entrepreneur.
My name is Débora and I’m a Brazilian visual journalist, currently based in California. I’m passionate about social issues and topics related to Latin America, which is reflected in most of my work.
I think curiosity brought me into this field; being from Brazil, a country with its share of challenges and complexities, I’ve always wondered, “why is there so much social inequality in the world?” It is often hard for me to leave out my emotions before I produce my stories. For most professionals, I think that a story ends once a segment is published, read or viewed. Sometimes for me, that is just the start of my journey.
I recently traveled to Colombia on a fellowship project, where I had the opportunity to produce a couple of video stories related to the five decades long conflict between the government and the guerrillas groups.
One of the stories that resonated with me was a story about two teenage siblings, 14 and 16 years old, who were sexually assaulted by a group of armed guerrilla combatants. Each had to helplessly witness the others’ rape, they told me. Both girls experienced premature pregnancy and gave birth to their children on the same day. Following the birth of the babies, the girls dropped out of school to make time for work and childcare. The girls would eventually flee their home to an unknown area in order to protect themselves from the guerrillas.
Their lives drastically changed after the incident: from a calm, rural lifestyle in a farm, where they were able to grow their own food ¬¬– to a lifestyle of near homelessness, where finding food was a daily struggle.
When I met them in March, they were living in a city thousands of miles away from their hometown. They had no jobs, no food and no hope. This family could barely afford their rent and lived in constant fear of eviction. Their mother sells lottery tickets on the streets and makes less than one dollar a day. The younger girl, now 16, is involved in prostitution; she recently gave birth to her second child.
During my reporting project, I came across some depressing data. Colombia has one of the highest rates of internally displaced people in the world – second only to Syria. Almost 6 million people are reported as displaced due to the ongoing-armed conflict. In addition, the country is home to almost 500 thousand victims of sexual violence. Sadly, the sisters, characters of my story, represent both groups.
I came back from this reporting trip knowing that something more than just a story needed to be done. My goal is to use my material to raise awareness about this issue, but also to raise funds to help the displaced and rape survivors in Colombia. I also believe that any form of help should be sustainable as opposed to a cash donation. To that end, I am studying ways to assist people like the sisters in my story with job-based skills training that can make a lasting difference in their lives.
(my video stories can be found at www.debsilva.com)