CESE begins 2nd training cycle – “Gbani – Community Self-protection and Digital Security”

Continuing meetings that began in 2020, the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE), has started its 2nd Training Cycle – “Gbani – Community Self-protection and Digital Security”. The project is aimed at leaders linked to quilombola organizations from the states of Pará, Tocantins and Maranhão, and is run in partnership with MariaLab and the Association of Lawyers for Rural Workers (Associação de Advogados/as de Trabalhadores/as Rurais: AATR).

Gbani means self-protection in Yoruba.  Starting from this premise, the project is supported by the Ford Foundation and aims to raise awareness and strengthen tools for the autonomous management of risks and community security in the struggle for rights – the defence of the territory, the collective/community and people, as well as for digital security.

This year, the programme includes three webinars, three roundtable conversations and a training session about digital security. In 2020, the Gbani project offered 10 audio classes and held seven meetings: three webinars, three training sessions (one for each state) and one roundtable conversation.

The training will be organized around two themes: community self-protection and digital security.  Content will be distributed across 10 modules; each module will contain audio classes, accompanied by presentation cards and an explanatory summary – the material will be available online and can be downloaded for later access.

Viviane Hermida, CESE Projects and Training Advisor, noted that the community self-protection and digital security training was chosen as a priority in dialogue with quilombola organizations, due to increased attacks on traditional peoples who act for the defence of the rights of their communities, either directly or through threats and the monitoring of mobile phones and social networks.

“So we are seeking partners who have experience in these areas to support the organizations in these issues. Training provides a space to reflect on traditional self-protection practices which should be revisited within this new context, and also to make use of tools, such as safer application plans, travel plans and more dynamism in protection networks,” she said.

Rosana Fernandes, CESE Projects and Training Advisor, noted that “Gbani is the product of dialogue between CESE and the quilombola movement, though which community self-care and digital security are seen as fundamental in these dark times of pandemic, attacks on democracy, rights violations and the criminalization of organizations and their leaders.”

“For the quilombola communities, in addition to confronting the diverse expressions of racism and historic inequalities, there is a need for access to communication.  CESE understands these challenges and seeks to concretely support the quilombola movement to become stronger and move forward in the defence of territories and the rights of black men and women from rural communities in our country,” she noted.

One of the quilombola women* who participated in the training sessions described how leaders of her community have been virtually attacked and threatened. “There have been situations that occurred within the community and took on huge proportions, using this visibility, they slandered people and distorted facts about what the community was involved in.”  This was why she decided to participate in the meetings.

“I am participating in the cycle of debates because I believe it’s very important to find out and learn more about community self-protection and digital security.  As quilombolas, we live in constant struggle, either in the territory or outside it, and the more access we have to means and tools that can support our protection and enhance our work, the stronger we are,” she noted.

Another quilombola man* described how, although he hasn’t suffered or witnessed any virtual threats in his community, he didn’t hesitate to participate in the course. “I agreed as soon as they invited me! Digital tools are so important, if we know how to use them to our advantage.  We quilombolas are very much in need of digital training.  I’m sure I’ll be able to contribute a lot to our quilombos,” he declared.

* For security reasons, names have been changed or removed.