Ana Maria Pacheco de Vasconcelos
This profile was prepared when Ana Maria Pacheco de Vasconcelos was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1988.
The New Idea
Street girls have been an unthinkable topic, if ubiquitous reality, in Brazil for years. Ana is at work researching the problem and how best to solve it, demonstrating her approach, and forcing the issue into view -- and society to begin responding -- with a powerful spotlight.She has gradually evolved an approach that works.First, she tries to help the girls get and stay off the streets. She respects them as young women, but counsels them and their families where possible. She gives special attention to preventative work with the mothers, daughters, and granddaughters of prostitutes.Central to her approach is a house to which the girls can come daily for work, training, medical and other care, a wash, counseling, reliable relationships and simple safety. For use both inside and outside the house she has developed respectful ways the would-be intervenor can use to build effective working relationships with these often badly bruised young women.At the same time, Ana is fighting for the girls' interests. She is exposing the discrimination and exploitation they suffer from both the police and the very institutions that are supposed to be protecting them. Recently, for example, she sued a public hospital for discriminating against a female street child taken in for emergency treatment.Ultimately, Ana hopes her research and her experiments helping the girls and fighting for their interests will help Brazil and its institutions develop an honest, caring, effective approach to these least fortunate of its citizens. She has already published an influential booklet defining the problem and suggesting how individuals and institutions can best help.