Black feminist LGBT activist and Rio councillor, Marielle Franco, 38, was murdered in Brazil after what would be her last political action, triggering a wave of revolt and demonstration throughout the country.
Franco was born and raised in the favela of Maré, one of the most dangerous favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and she experienced violence from up close. When she was young, she experienced the death of one of her friends killed by a stray bullet, which pushed her to join movements defending human rights. She got pregnant when she was only 18 years old and had to quit her studies for a few years in order to, with the help of her mum, care for her daughter. That experience pushed her towards the black feminist movement, which had been a crucial part of her political and activist life.
She eventually studied Sociology and did a Master´s in Public Administration. After years of activism in social movements, she became a parliamentary advisor to the deputy Marcelo Freixo, from the Socialist and Freedom Party. She also became president of the Woman Council Commission and presented a project to create and inform on the Carioca Woman, with the aim to start collecting data on sexual violence against women inside the municipality. Among other things, she also sought to allow abortion under the same conditions established by the Federal supreme court of the country and to increase the number of maternity units and childbirth facilities.
Later in 2016, she ran for city councillor with the slogan “I am because we are” and got elected with the fifth-highest number of votes received by a city councillor in Rio´s history. As a councillor, she was very critical of the army interventions in the security of Rio de Janeiro, which have been put in place by the Brazilian government in an attempt to tackle the wave of violence existing since the Olympics of 2016. Within the council, Franco was in charge of monitoring the human rights violations from the part of the security forces (which are already being reported by the people living in the favelas). She also always demanded a renewal of Brazilian politics. She wanted to see more black, more female, more LGBT and more favela faces in positions of power.
Because of her experience growing up in the favelas and as a black, gay woman, she was able to gain the trust and support of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Her denunciations and claims about unequal rights sounded real.
Described as a tireless social warrior by some and as a woman full of infectious positivity and strength by those who knew her, her death is a loss not only to her close relatives and friends, but also to the city of Rio and the society as a whole. Her courage and fights for justice, freedom and for equality will not be forgotten.
By Teresa Iglesias, WAVE Intern
Phillips, Tom. “’I’m Waiting for Her to Come Back’: Marielle Franco’s Fiancee on Life a Month after Rio Councillor’s Murder.” The Guardian, 13 Apr. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/13/marielle-franco-fiancee-rio-brazil-monica-benicio.
Phillips, Dom. “Protests Held across Brazil after Rio Councillor Shot Dead.” The Guardian, 15 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/15/marielle-franco-shot-dead-targeted-killing-rio.
Sánchez, Gabriela. “Negra, Madre Adolescente, Lesbiana y Nacida En La Favela: Las Luchas De La Concejala Asesinada En Brasil.” El Diario, 15 Mar. 2018, www.eldiario.es/desalambre/Negra-adolescente-concejala-activista-Brasil_0_750326112.html.