How to Amplify the Voices of Marginalized Communities in Brazil

This post was originally published on the MIT Center for Civic Media blog. The article was submitted by Alexandre Goncalves. His introduction to the piece is as follows:

During the last weeks, our friend Paulo Rogério has conducted Vojo trainings in Salvador, Brazil. The photos are amazing! I translated one of his articles about this initiative that has been connecting and empowering people from quilombola communities with no internet access on the outskirts of a Brazilian metropolis.


The youth from quilombos at Ilha de Maré are publishing news stories with their mobile phones and giving voice to the needs and concerns of their communities. Last Friday (Oct 25th), around 20 girls and boys from Porto dos Cavalos community participated in the workshop: “Vojo Brazil: amplifying Quilombola voices through mobile phones” [pt].

Organized by Mídia Étnica Institute [pt], in a partnership with the MIT Center for Civic Media, the initiative is a ground-breaking effort that has enabled many young people to post content in the Web with cheap mobile phones and no Internet access.

During the workshops, Mídia Étnica Institute shows a video with previous similar activities and discusses the future of the Vojo Brazil project. The main aim is to empower young “quilombolas” and help them identify and denounce the violence they witness in their communities. Vojo enables them to reach bloggers and media outlets outside Ilha de Maré.

The initiative, a pilot project, aims to spread to other traditional communities in Brazil that have little or no internet access, for instance, communities in remote rural areas, indigenous groups, landless workers, and other disenfranchised groups alienated from the information society.

Vojo enables everyone to create and update a blog even whether she/he does not have computer or internet access. The tool allows the user to post audio stories from mobile phones and even public telephones. It is also possible to post photos and video from cell phones.

The idea is to help the youth to become tech-savvy and connect their communities to a social network that can increase the awareness to their social, cultural and political demands in the Brazilian media ecosystem. The project has the support of the MIT Center for Civic Media, a well-known center of excellence in the relationship between technology and civic engagement.


“Nowadays, one of the main challenges Brazil faces is the integration of a historically marginalized population. They still do not have access to basic rights and technologies. With Vojo, communities all around the country will be able to publish their stories, even in remote places. They will be able to voice their views and demands to the Brazilian government and society”

…says Paulo Rogério Nunes, executive director of Mídia Étnica Institute.

For the past eight years, the Mídia Étnica Institute has conducted projects in the fields of communication and diversity. In addition, it is responsible for many actions related to community communication and citizen journalism (e.g. our portal Correio Nagô [pt]).

Practical experience.

After the training, around 20 girls and boys from quilombola communities in Ilha de Maré used Vojo to cover the Third State Conference on the Promotion of Racial Equality (III Conepir) [pt]. With their mobile phones, they interviewed and took pictures of the participants. So far, five quilombola communities are engaged in the Vojo Brazil project: Bananeiras, Martelo, Porto dos Cavalos, Maracanã and Praia Grande.

Vojo is a hosted mobile blogging platform based on VozMob, a community-led project that appropriates mobile phones to amplify the voices of immigrant workers in California. In 2012, Mídia Étnica Institute helped to test the “newborn” Vojo with Brazilian house cleaners in the Boston area. Vojo is one of the main technologies integrated to our portal Correio Nagô [pt].

Fredson Santana, one of the participants in the Vojo Brazil training, describes the initiative as “fundamental” to the marginalized communities. Last month, Santana and his friend Érica de Jesus went to an event in São Paulo organized by the National Department of Youth to talk to other activists about Vojo Brazil.


“In addition to Vojo, they had talks on sexually transmitted diseases, black identity, media democratization and basic journalism. They must be able to spread the technology to other communities in Salvador and Brazil”, says Luciane Neves, one of the project coordinators.


According to the report “(Un)sustainable urbanization in Ilha de Maré: case study of Vila de Santana” [pt], by the Department of Urban Development of the Bahia State, Ilha da Maré is located 3 miles from São Tomé de Paripe, on the outskirts of Salvador. It has 5,712 inhabitants and an area of ​​1378 hectares.


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