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Changing minds: How our girls are fighting the culture of abuse

Confronting a local culture which sees sexual abuse and exploitation as normal and acceptable is a key part of Meninadança’s work. 

But as the girls in our Pink Houses have thrived, it is increasingly they who have been at the forefront of calling for change in their communities.

Every month our girls perform in local schools and community events, or take part in forums, outdoor performances and public protests, where through dance, drama and the spoken word they press home that sexual exploitation is wrong, and that people need to view and treat girls differently.

One highlight came during a meeting in Medina, to which we had invited key figures from the town. After the girls had spoken and performed, the town’s police chief, clearly moved, stood up and admitted that even he hadn’t truly understood that child prostitution was wrong, and pledged to change.

Meanwhile, for one week in May, all our Pink Houses  opened their doors to visitors for our Transform Exhibition. Local people were invited to walk through the houses and view thought-provoking art displays, galleries, live art and dance performances, and interactive installations, all designed to encourage people to rethink their attitudes.  

During a week over 1,500 people walked through  the exhibitions, where the girls themselves explained what each display was about (above). Many visitors were visibly moved by what they saw and heard.

In Cândido Sales every student from local schools went round the exhibition, as well as many others, including the town’s judge and prosecutor. In Medina hundreds visited the exhibition, including the town’s mayor, who wept as one of the girls told her story and passionately asked for change.

Lorene Zaca, our artistic coordinator, said: “The exhibition had a profound effect. In the weeks that followed all the towns registered more reports of child abuse to the dedicated government 100 hotline than at any other time. The message that they couldn’t stay silent had clearly got through.”