When Renata Souza walks in the narrow streets of Mare favela in Rio de Janeiro, it brings joyful and sad memories. Joyful, because that’s where she grew up and sad because her friend, fellow activist and city councilor Marielle Franco was slain in Brazil’s second most populous city 4 years ago.
Her human rights ideals ushered her into the political arena where she intends to fight for the less priviledged.
“When we introduce ourselves by saying ‘I am a woman, I am black, I come from the favela and I came here to defend these programmes’, it’s a big shock, it’s a power shift, because these people, people like me, like my mother, like my neighbours, have always been on the periphery, not only territorially, but also politically. We have never been at the centre of politics, we have never been a priority.”
The 40-year-old is running for reelection as a state lawmaker in Brazil’s October 2 elections. However, because of her political platform, she has received death threats making her life even more difficult in a city where hundred die every year to gun violence.
“I move around with an armoured car, I move around with policemen, I move around with security guards. I have lost my freedom, it is a very high price to pay to do politics in Brazil.”
Souza was first elected in 2018, the same year her friend was killed. Her constituants are grateful for her political commitment and accomplishments. Renata Souza passed legislation prioritizing the investigation of murdered children and against the mistreatment of pregnant black women in the health system.
“Whether we like it or not, this is a place forgotten by people, by the politicians themselves. They don’t really look at our priorities, our interests, they prioritise theirs. So, having someone here who thinks like us, who looks after us, is very important, and who is one of us, just like Renata is.”
The Socialism and Freedom Party candidate was one of the five black women in Rio’s 70-member legislature. During the upcoming October general elections, Brazilians will elect their president, vice-president, some senators, members of the Chamber of Deputies as well as governors and state legislatures.