Guardianship councils

Image: Regina Veiga


Involvement with the current election is not only motivated by the theme of childhood, but also democracy

Professor and researcher Míriam Krenzinger and anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares wrote, in June this year, a provocative text about the Brazilian Guardianship Councils and their election, four months away at the time. Combining reportage and political essay, the piece was written with literary flair. He supported two main hypotheses.

First: after years of the country's impoverishment and the dismantling of public policies, councils have become, in a large part of the territory, the only sign of the State's protective presence. For this reason, and because of their link with childhood, in often dramatic situations, they acquired an essential political and symbolic role. They are an important instrument to make life in communities a little less oppressive; but, at the same time, a piece that helps to define – for one side or another – the design of the national political mosaic.

Second: Despite this, democratic currents and the left underestimate these spaces, perhaps because they have adhered to institutionality and moved away from the territories where everyday social life takes place (especially the peripheries). This absence opens up a wide avenue, easily occupied today by the ultra-right. It remains active, skillfully mobilizes the preaching of fundamentalist churches and transforms the councils it controls into machines for reproducing ultra-conservative ideas and practices.

The article is not limited to noting the delay. His last words are of timid hope: “There is still time to politicize, in the noblest sense of the term, the selection process (…) It is still possible to promote debates, learn about the profile of candidates, identify and value secular and progressives, participate in the campaign and go to the polls to practice our civic duty. If we effectively consider defending the rights of children and adolescents a priority, and recognize the urgency of the issue, we must commit to the public debate on the candidacies and help publicize it.”

It was not isolated preaching in the desert. At around the same time, texts of similar content began to circulate. They ended up stimulating the emergence of a national mobilization. It seems capable of influencing the election of councils and brings something new to the experience of social movements and their relationship with the internet.

A coalition of twelve entities1 subscribe to the website Election of the Year, focused on the choice of councils. Hundreds of thousands of people have already accessed it and the flow has been growing rapidly in the last few hours. Furthermore, countless people use information from Election of the Year to create lists of candidates for specific cities or neighborhoods and share them on social media. If this movement continues to expand, it is possible that it will overlap with the mobilization of the ultra-right – which uses religious fundamentalism and fear to win its own candidates.

The Observatory of Guardianship Councils, at UFRJ, is one of the twelve entities in the coalition. Mírian Krenzinger herself, a member of the observatory, reports how everything was possible. The texts published in the middle of the year encouraged organizations dedicated to the democratic protection of children to come together. There was political wisdom in the construction of the initiative.

The twelve entities did not claim the right to nominate candidates (nor would they be able to do so). Nor were they content to launch vague formulas – urging the population to choose, for example, “people who respect Human Rights”. They preferred to define a set of principles, which should guide the action of democratic guardianship councils. Principles are rules. To receive an indication of Election of the Year, candidates need to commit to them.

There are twelve points, based on the Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA), but written in a very clear and defining way. The first argues that any child who becomes pregnant under the age of 14 has the right to choose abortion – and Guardianship Councils must be obliged to guarantee this possible choice. The principle is based on Brazilian law itself. She considers any sexual relationship with a person in this age group to be rape; and authorizes the termination of pregnancies resulting from violence. There is nothing to discuss.

A second point establishes that counselors must commit to protecting any type of family organization – and not just the so-called “traditional family”. The commitment makes a huge difference, given the pressure that councils often receive to discriminate against non-heterosexual, single-person or indigenous family groupings, for example.

In Míriam Krenzinger's last count, more than 1.200 counselors had already received nominations for Election of the year. There is already candidate@s in all capitals and dozens of other cities. The ever-increasing number of people searching for the site have no difficulty finding them. Just inform, this page, city, state and neighborhood of the voter registration card. The list is generated instantly. In other areas of the website there is basic information about the role of Guardianship Councils, the ECA, the electoral process and how to vote.

The mobilization is not just virtual. Last Thursday (28/9), for example, one of Míriam Krenzinger's commitments was to mediate a debate between thirteen candidate@s who would speak to the communities of Complexo da Maré, in the north of Rio.

Political scientist and popular educator Áurea Carolina played a particular role in the movement to elect democratic Guardianship Councils. She is the executive director of We’re – the organization that offered the twelve campaign entities technology and internet infrastructure, design and some assistance in mobilization and communication techniques. In social mobilization, politics is always in charge, but it is not everything. Without network tools, there would be no possibility of a national campaign; and, in the absence of this, perhaps the twelve entities would not even find a reason to articulate themselves.

Áurea Carolina has already been in other places, in the social struggle. In the 2010s, she participated in the collective Many, which united movements from the outskirts and the center of Belo Horizonte, played a prominent role in the social explosion of 2013 and managed to give it a progressive political meaning – contrary to what happened in most of the country. In 2016, she was elected as the city's most voted councilor and was a federal deputy between 2018 and 2022. She now encourages other roles, but has not lost her ability to see the country, nor the desire to influence its direction.

“Our involvement with Election of the year It didn’t come from the theme of childhood, but from democracy”, she says. “We realized that the Guardianship Councils were at risk of becoming centers of ultra-conservative articulation and levers to project the right into other institutional spaces.” The tool built by Nossa draws attention for its power and simplicity. For weeks, she allowed hundreds of candidates and board candidates to learn about the platform of twelve commitments and join it. Now, introduce them to the population. Navigation is easy, the aesthetics are communicative and attractive.

Created in 2011, initially linked to the fight for the Right to the City, Nossas embraces other causes. Resistance to the pro-speculation Master Plan in São Paulo. The defense of Serra do Curral, in Belo Horizonte, threatened by mining. Movements to keep the Amazon standing.

Perhaps its strongest political sense is something that underlies all of this. The subversive character that the internet maintained in its early days – the possibility of putting human beings in contact, anywhere in the world and without the mediations imposed by capital – seems to have faded. In its place, the dictatorship of social networks, surveillance and algorithms emerged, through which the largest corporations on the planet track actions and desires, and condition what each person reads, does and buys. The control is so intense that the dispute sometimes seems lost.

Campaigns like Election of the year and initiatives such as We’re suggest that the dice are still rolling.

* Antonio Martins is a journalist and editor of the site Other words.

Originally published on the website Other words.


[1] The list is available on the website Election of the Year.

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