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Project engages young people in discussions about Right to the City

With support from CESE’s Small Projects Programme, the Association of Youth, Culture and Citizenship (Associação de Juventudes, Cultura e Cidadania: AJURCC) encourages youth leadership and action in defence of quality transport.

 

The right to come and go is interdependent on access to other rights. When our right to move around fails, the barriers extend to all our other rights.  Faced with so many challenges and the neglect of public transport, the Association of Youth, Culture and Citizenship (Associação de Juventudes, Cultura e Cidadania: AJURCC) constructed a mobilization, coordination and training project, primarily aimed at young people from the district of São José da Mata, about how to mobilize support focused on the defence of quality public transport for local communities.  The training was supported by CESE’s Small Projects Programme, and allied training in mobilizing support to the development of political action to improve the quality of public transport.

The initiative involved mobilizing support activities for young leaders from São José da Mata over the first half of 2022 and coordination with youth groups and collectives, women and workers in the defence of quality public transport for the district.  Meetings supported young people and the district’s other inhabitants to intervene in arenas for institutional political participation. One of the highlights was a seminar entitled “Public Transport in Campina Grande and the Right to the City,” held on 12 February.

AJURCC is dedicated to educational activities and creates the right dynamics for the collective construction of knowledge. In the project focused on youth leadership for quality transport, emphasis was placed on valuing and creating arenas that ensure the assertion of autonomy, providing a favourable environment for dialogue and participation.  This approach led to the emergence, from these training arenas, of alliances able to deal realistically with the content addressed over the project.

São José da Mata and public transport challenges – the district of São José da Mata is located in the municipality of Campina Grande in Paraíba. It has approximately 20,000 inhabitants (IBGE 2017), 40% of whom live in rural areas. Most families earn their living from family farming, civil construction and small-scale commerce. Those who work in Campina Grande’s urban areas or in the Industrial District travel an average of 15 km to work, depend directly on one bus line and mainly use bus or student passes (students and workers are the most affected).

Limitations to the district’s public transport directly affect residents’ work opportunities.  Many employers deny jobs to those who live in the district, alleging lateness.  Beyond work, challenges also extend to banking, leisure and culture services, in short, everything that involves moving out of the territory.  This is because public transport does not operate regularly in the district.  Buses are hourly and the last bus leaves at 7pm.  On the weekends the situation worsens: there are no buses on Sundays or holidays.

“We know we have rights, but they’re not put into practice.  It’s very complicated with the transport system, because there’s no competition.  They put up the timetable they want, the way they want, the buses they want.  Although there are some rules about putting in new buses every year,” explained Kívia Figueiredo, AJURCC’s Finance Director.  The São José da Mata district is situated at the exit from Campina Grande, which involves travelling on the highway – which means faster traffic and the need for greater security on the bus, using seatbelts, for example. In practice it doesn’t happen like this, the inter-municipal buses are always full and pass at irregular times.

“The buses never come at a fixed time, which is highly prejudicial.  Following the public hearing at the Chamber of Councillors, we were able to make them change the buses, put them on at the correct times and follow the timetable,” she recalled.  Since then, improvements have been made, however access to quality public transport remains on the agenda of those who live in São José da Mata. “It’s occupying our space and saying: we are here, we have our rights, we fulfil our responsibilities, we pay taxes and everything else.  We want quality transport!” she declared.

The fight for quality transport continues; there has also been a lot of dialogue with the bodies responsible for seeking to improve the conditions of the highways that give access to the territory, which were in a bad state, with potholes, justifying management reasons for not putting on better buses.

Young People, Culture and Citizenship – Because they face so many challenges, there are daily discussions in the São José da Mata community about the right to the city, meaning that young people also need to be involved in this debate to access their own rights.  Such as: how young people can access leisure and culture spaces, without being able to rely on public transport at the weekends; or to travel to university in the centre of Campina Grande.  To get these young people to engage in this discussion, the AJURCC prepared training that involved talks and workshops, prioritizing young facilitators, who could easily establish bonds with the group and give courses which contributed to the training about rights.

“And from this, we helped shape these young people, because we asked: ‘if you were part of a protest, what would it be like? And they replied that they would put up posters and go head-to-head with people, and so forth. Little by little, we began to polish this discourse, to teach them about the importance of dialogue with the right people, in order to demonstrate their needs,” she said.

The partnership with CESE enabled the training with young people to go ahead and, from there, to develop political action to put pressure on public bodies to improve public transport in the district.  “We sent a document to the Department of Public Transport, asking for more buses at the weekends and improved conditions.  We also sent it to the councillors, which led to a public audience with leaders from other communities. At the time, there were moments when the lines were removed from the district.  There was a strike and, in addition to São José da Mata, public transport didn’t circulate in several districts, such as Galante, Cuité and Salgadinho. These districts didn’t have any buses, at any time, on any day.  A lot of people had problems because no cars came from the ridesharing apps.” The hearing and grassroots pressure led to the hoped-for results and ensured that public transport started running again.

The learning we gained from the training laid the foundations for the required political action. “For us, the partnership with CESE was extremely important, because it provided guidance and information for us to learn how to act. The project was practical, objective and that led to results for the community,” she concluded.