In this post we would like to introduce one of our partners in Brazil who made an outstanding contribution facilitating our interviews with LGBT people living in poverty in Rio de Janeiro.
Majorie Marchi is the President of ASTRA-Rio, the Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals of Rio de Janeiro. Since 2011 she has been an officer at the program Rio sem Homofobia, part of the government of the State of Rio de Janeiro, which also offered assistance for our fieldwork.
Majorie has been a trans activist for almost a decade and has spearheaded several actions to alleviate the poverty of trans* people in Rio, including the project DAMAS from the Secretary of Social Development of the State of Rio. Exclusively for trans* people this pioneer project in Latin America tackles the issue of employment and labour inclusion. Since 2003, it has allowed social and professional inclusion of transvestites and transsexuals through training and promoting education and employability.
Majorie was part of the first group of trans* selected for the project, which t consists of 2 modules: the first is a month of intensive training for the formal labour market and the second module consists of a three-month internship in companies, government agencies, NGOs, etc.
On average 20 trans* people are formally employed after being part of the project and Majorie is one successful example. She was not only employed at the Secretary of Social Welfare of the City of Rio, but also in 2005, together with friends she founded Astra-Rio, which facilitates joint and inclusive actions for transvestites and transsexuals.
In its first two years, the organization had 145 members in the State of Rio de Janeiro and since then, has been engaged in actions for inclusive education, provided medical, psychological and legal advice, workshops to increase self-esteem and other professional courses. Their latest endeavor was a beauty contest for the trans community, entitled Miss T Brasil Pageant, which will run for the second time in 2013.
Majorie believes that many tranvestites and transexuals in Rio want the chance for job opportunities other than sex work. This is why DAMAS works to “motivate and increase the self-esteem of trans people, as well as prepare them for the labour market and thus enable their integration with the rest of society”, says Majorie. “At the same time, it aims to change preconceptions and stigmatised views of transvestites and transsexuals”, she adds.
People who are unemployed and/or lack education are more vulnerable to social exclusion. As a result, they are often in poverty and driven to sex work. Majorie says that “this scenario is even worse for transvestites and transsexuals since they are also victim of discrimination and transphobia and thus have fewer chances of finding a decent job”.
Besides the DAMAS project, Majorie has also worked at the Center for Marginalized Population, part of the Secretary of Social Welfare, where she has coordinated over 17 social projects for a variety of vulnerable and marginalized people. Majorie mapped people’s needs, divided them according to their skills and referred them to educational institutions, formal or informal jobs or entrepreneurial opportunities. Options for micro-credit were also offered through the extinct Banco Carioca and Majorie observed some successful results.
Currently, the project DAMAS is being spearheaded by the SPECIAL COORDINATION OF SEXUAL DIVERSITY represented by its coordinator, Carlos Tufvesson. Since 2012, the project has been completely redesigned and now has partnerships with other municipal departments. They have already formed three classes of 20 students and the fourth one will start its activities soon.
We are very grateful for Majorie’s assistance during our fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro and we hope to work with more local partners soon. If you have any experience of addressing poverty among LGBTI people in Brazil, do not hesitate to write to us and share your story!
Majorie was interviewed by Lucas Paoli Itaborahy
*Trans people include those people who have a gender identity which is different to the gender assigned at birth and/or those people who feel they have to, prefer to or choose to – whether by clothing, accessories, cosmetics or body modification – present themselves differently to the expectations of the gender role assigned to them at birth. This includes, among many others, transsexual and transgender people, transvestites, travesti, cross dressers, no gender and genderqueer people” [GATE, http://transactivists.org/trans/