SFN 3rd Annual Meet-Up, Part 2: Catalog of Sustainable Favela Products and Services Launch

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This is the second article in a series covering the events of the 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up of the Sustainable Favela Network, which happened online on November 7, 2020. 

The Sustainable Favela Network (SFN) is a project of Catalytic Communities (CatComm)* with the aim of building solidarity networks, increasing visibility, and developing joint activities that support the expansion of community-based initiatives that strengthen environmental sustainability and social resilience in favelas across the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region. The project began with the 2012 film Favela as a Sustainable Model, followed in 2017 with the mapping of sustainability initiatives in favelas across Rio. In 2018, the program organized local exchanges between eight of the most well-established community programs, followed by the 1st Annual Full-Network Meet-Up, launching the SFN formally on November 10, 2018. In 2019, the program organized another round of exchanges—this time open to all SFN members and to members of the public—in five favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The activities carried out in 2019 culminated in the 2nd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up. In 2020, the SFN’s Working Groups continued to meet—online, due to the coronavirus pandemic—carrying out a range of activities such as rounds of support (rondas afetivas), teach-ins, seminars, fundraising campaigns, a commitment letter for political candidates, and a debate with mayoral candidates. To close the year, the Sustainable Favela Network held its 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up, summarized below and in this series, with the aim of bringing the network together, promoting the mutual strengthening of relationships among socio-environmental organizers, evaluating the SFN’s 2020 activities, and making plans for 2021.

Launch of the Sustainable Favela Network’s Catalog of Products and Services

The second activity of the Sustainable Favela Network’s 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up was organized by the network’s Income Generation Working Group. Throughout 2020, the Working Group brought together diverse local producers of sustainable arts and crafts, services, and food and produced the Sustainable Favela Network’s Catalog of Products and Services, launched along with the SFN website at the Full-Network Meet-Up. Some members of the Working Group were also responsible for a teach-in held in August on how favela artisans reinvented themselves during the pandemic.

One of them was Clarice Cavalcante, co-founder of Devas-Maré’s Artisans in Nova Holanda, one of the 16 favelas of Complexo da Maré, who reflected: “Creating the things we do, the problem is publicizing them, and the catalog will help to continue our work.” Theresa Williamson, who moderated the event, clarified further: “the purpose of this catalog is not to be a virtual store, it is to be an actual catalog for people who want to know or support the income generation projects of the Sustainable Favela Network.”

Geiza de Andrade, a resident of Vila Kennedy favela, in Bangu, in the West Zone, and founder of the Marias in Action Project with her own arts and crafts line, elaborated: “In this era of the pandemic, as the material we use comes from donations—such as newspapers, glasses, a bottle of oil, wine, cardboard, magazine inserts, pizza trays—how do we go meet people to gather these materials [in a safe way]? We started to get scared, we looked for information, but unfortunately the Internet has a lot of fake [news]. We looked for [information about] how long the virus stayed on the surface of material and how to collect that material, I wore gloves to receive it, and I let it sit for a few days before picking it up to work.”

Maré resident Valdirene Militão, an artisan who works with discarded materials and founder of the Carioca Tem Arte line, chose to advertise her accessories made of instant coffee capsules in the Catalog, despite having lots of other work, reusing other types of materials. She explained, “I got to know the coffee capsules at work. There are many people who drink [coffee] and nothing is done with these capsules. I tried several things. I made garlands, plant pots… until I made an earring, necklace, earring holder… We have a responsibility for what we discard, [especially] with what is of single use… understanding that there is no such thing as to ‘throw away.’ Everything is always within the planet … [Our action] is for environmental education, though it is obvious that it is [also] to generate income, and also to train other women within their territories. Potent women!”

Militão said that artisans are used to finding the positive in what most people see as negative: “People think something is garbage, but I see usable material… After seeing garbage transformed into art, it changes the perspective of the community about what is garbage.” She said she was very happy to be part of the Catalog and to think that it will inspire others. “We are going to win the world with this catalog!” she concluded.

Then, Élida Nascimento, from the Inclusion Project, added that inspiring other women to have a source of income and empower themselves—in a city where women do not occupy spaces of power—and above all the older women in her community in the Baixada Fluminense, is what makes it “worth it.” She saw an opportunity to integrate the different generations—the elders, the children, and adolescents—of her community, Éden, in São João de Meriti, while generating bonds and income: “The candy project exists because we have a large number of women here and we work with children and teenagers. We had the idea of getting them to interact: the women make the sweets and the young people look for the glass and sterilize the glass and the packaging, which usually has poetry or drawings made by them.”

Nascimento said that the pandemic affected the project, which was started in Éden despite the public health crisis, and that “it is a joy” to have her community’s product in the Catalog.

Cavalcante followed the other women of the Income Generation Working Group. Speaking directly from Feira do Lavradio, a Saturday artisan market in Rio’s downtown Centro, as she worked selling clothes, the social entrepreneur said she sees lack of publicity as the main obstacle of her projects and perceives the Catalog as a strategy to make her works known, even internationally: “It is a moment of total reconstruction of everything we have done so far, a moment of total innovation, and I am sure that our Network will help a lot to search for new possibilities.”

Finally, Ana Félix spoke. Félix is from the Alternative and Organized Liberation Movement for Citizenship and Social Support (M.A.L.O.C.A.), which was founded during a meeting of old friends in a store in Pantanal, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Duque de Caxias, in Greater Rio’s Baixada Fluminense region. The group of women had gathered to sew handmade pieces together, and Ana realized that her friends had started to suffer from depression and anxiety. Then she realized that, for these women, sewing, embroidering, and turning “garbage” into art together was almost a collective therapy. “We started the project with the objective of strengthening these women through conversation circles and arts and crafts workshops,” she explained. “The Catalog has a very personal footprint which is the reuse of solid waste… I believe that even the community will start to see the work with reuse differently… they are seeing this work in a new light… [which] is very devalued… The Catalog will show them [that it is possible to generate income] and still do socio-environmental work in our territory,” she said.

Williamson ended the section by recalling that all of the Sustainable Favela Network’s working groups work on behalf of the Network as a whole and, therefore, the Catalog is open to any sustainable products or services offered by SFN members, be it a community tour, a local knowledge class, something in the area of gardening, or anything else. All can be included in the Catalog. Williamson also recalled that there is a proposal for 2021 to internationalize the Catalog and its sustainable products and services.

Watch the Launch of the SFN Products and Services Catalog:

This is the second article in a series covering the events of the 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up of the Sustainable Favela Network, which happened online on November 7, 2020. 

*The Sustainable Favela Network and RioOnWatch are both projects of Catalytic Communities (CatComm). The Sustainable Favela Network is supported by the Heinrich Böll Foundation Brazil.

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