Violence against Women & Girls in transnational perspective

Transnational Perspectives on Violence Against Women and Girls (ESRC Newton Fund):

This ESRC-funded research project was part of the UK-Brazil Collaborative Research Call under the auspices of the Newton Fund and the Urban Transformations programme (grant number: ES/N013247/1) and was directed by Professor Cathy McIlwaine (King’s College London) and co-directed by Professor Paul Heritage (Queen Mary University of London It explored the nature of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Rio de Janeiro and London. It worked with the Brazilian diaspora in London and with women in the favela, Complexo da Maré in Rio de Janeiro.

The research, which was undertaken in partnership with the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Peoples’ Palace Projects (, CASA Festival ( in London and with Redes da Mare ( and the  Escola de Serviço Social, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) ( Dr Miriam Krenzinger was the PI in Brazil in partnership with Eliana Silva from Redes da Mare.

The project in London entailed survey, interview and focus group research with over 200 Brazilian women in London as well as 12 service providers. All the interviews were conducted according to strict ethical guidelines with a trained counsellor on hand at all times.

Among a huge range of issues that emerged, it emerged that four in every five Brazilian women surveyed had experienced GBV in their lifetime (82%), that nearly half (48%) of all Brazilian women had experienced some form of GBV in the UK, and that emotional/psychological violence was the commonest type of violence experienced in London (48%), followed by physical violence (38%), with 14% experiencing sexual violence. However, 56% of women never reported an episode of violence in London, mainly because they thought nothing would be done about it, lack of information, shame and fear of deportation due to insecure immigration status.

The project resulted in two artistic pieces:

1) Efêmera. A theatre play using verbatim theatre techniques was developed by a Brazilian playwright and actress, Gäel le Cornec, based in London who is part of the CASA Latin American Theatre Festival (see See also

London: Efemera was performed at the CASA Festival at the Southwark Playhouse, London in October 2017 for 3 performances, all sold-out to 300 people. One show was followed by a panel discussion with Cathy McIlwaine, Rosie Hunter from Peoples’ Palace Projects and Gael le Cornec.

Rio de Janeiro: we then took Efemera to Rio de Janeiro where it was performed at Casa de Bellas Artes, in the favela of Mare (where the Brazilian research was conducted) and at Sede das Cias (feminist theatre festival in Lapa, Rio) x 2 shows to 120 people in November 2017. Both shows were followed by panel discussions with Cathy McIlwaine, Gael le Cornec and Paul Heritage.

Brighton: Efemera was performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival in May 2018 x 3 shows to 60 people.

Feedback from Brighton shows:

“Efemera was absolutely fantastic and emotional. It spoke to me on a personal and deep level. As a Mexican-American who has been sexually abused as a child and later on helped others deal with the same issues. It is inspired and I’m continually inspired by those who choose to speak out. Thank you!” :-)

“Very moving. The statistics combined with the emotion worked so well. thank you for being brave and sharing. The use of the projection worked very well.”

“It really impressed me. I watch a lot of verbatim theatre and tend to find them obvious and even cheesy. The combination of meta and verbatim makes it very real and close to us. This is a whole new level.”

“This is such important research that needs to be shared and publicised. The performance made me feel hopeful that the arts can live a platform for the voices of the victims of social violence - since they are so often failed by the media & the justice system. Good work!

2) Scar. An audio-visual installation created by Bia Lessa, one of Brazil’s most renowned theatre directors/artists / filmmakers ( This was based on interviews with 20 women from the favela of Maré, Rio de Janeiro whose testimonies were filmed. This was performed at the Women of the World Festival, Southbank Centre, March 2018. It was open for 3 days and was attended by approximately 500 people. See

Rio de Janeiro. A performance was held in Casa de Bellas Artes, in the favela of Mare (where the Brazilian research was conducted) in March 2018 with 50 people.

Main reports from project

McIlwaine and Evans (2018) We Can’t Fight in the Dark: Violence Against Women and Girls among Brazilians in London (long and short versions and in Portuguese).

Krenzinger et al (2018) Violence Against Women in Complexo Maré, Rio de Janeiro (also in Portguuese).

Video from the project

Media coverage

City Metric 23/11/16 Can the New Urban Agenda make cities safer for women?

BBC Brasil 11/10//16;

The Conversation 21/10/16

For more information on the research project, see