Fellow Since 2006
This description of Paulo Lima's work was prepared when Paulo Lima was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
Paulo Lima founded a low-cost, effective print publication to spark the participation of children and teenagers in civic life and decision-making. He also helps adult readers understand and respect the perspectives of young people on issues of critical importance to the community.
The New Idea
Paulo uses print media to open new pathways for young people to become more active within their communities. His approach relies on young people to research and write on issues such as HIV and Aids and poverty, first engaging them at the local level, then joining their efforts together regionally and nationally. Paulo’s Youth Editorial Council, “Virajovens” is composed of young volunteers from diverse states and social classes who participate in the decision-making and publication process. The presence of adult professionals in the communication field is complimentary and serves as a training mechanism for participating youth. Paulo believes the publication Viração can shape the field of education through communication, as well as teach technical media and publication skills, in addition to critical thinking and reading. Viração is also meant to influence the magazine’s readers, engaging them through relevant, accessible topics and encouraging them to participate more regularly in their communities. Partners in education and social institutions use the journal to elaborate teaching processes that promote humanistic values for young people.
Most media and news print is produced by adults for adults. Media produced for youth is almost always in the form of advertisements: buy this and you will be happy, wear this and you will be cool. However, there is a huge and growing demand from young people for media outlets that reflect their problems and challenges, and whose content is largely produced by young people themselves.The content of current publications does not reflect the reality of the majority of Brazilian young people, many of whom have received poor-quality formal education. These youth do not connect with the elite discourse that many publications embrace. Additionally, by treating young people as passive consumers, the majority of magazines directed at them focus on selling products instead of listening to them or giving them a voice. Data from UNICEF (2003) reveals that 72.6 percent of the materials in the media in regards to adolescents do not consult any kind of research in this field. Further, when there is dialogue with youth, it tends to be tightly controlled by adult editors. Most young Brazilians do not have access to training that permits them to participate and contribute to national media avenues. Further, those who develop this skill find themselves without a vehicle through which they can express their opinions, which breeds frustration and disillusionment on the part of young people. The feeling of powerlessness contributes to the low self-esteem many youth express and intensifies their social exclusion.
Paulo believes that his Viração magazine, and the initiatives that support and feed into it, offer a new way to promote citizenship and community participation among young people. A central axis of the magazine’s success is the coherency of its editorial line with human character. Everything produced by the project is based on values such as education for peace, solidarity between peoples, respect for ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, affirmation of the rights of youth, and the valorization of Brazilian culture. This thematic focus is presented in an attractive and jovial way through the graphic production of the magazine. This presentation allows for a positive reception by readers and specialized agencies.In order to act in different regions in Brazil and to enable social transformation, Paulo Lima created Virajovens, councils in 14 state capitals comprising 10 members who are responsible for bringing the regional voices of the young people into the national project. The Virajovens are composed of young volunteers who meet once a month in the headquarters of a partner communication organization that facilitates logistics and provides a professional facilitator. In exchange partner organizations receive advertising space in the print publication. In Virajovens gatherings, the members and the partners read and evaluate articles, with attention given to language, content, and graphic presentation. Diverse communications professionals are invited to participate and exchange knowledge and methodology. All the material produced is sent to the Council of São Paulo, which is responsible for final edition and for prioritizing the rotation of materials published by each council. In the beginning of 2006, a central Management Council was created with one representative from each Virajoven. Viração also works with educational institutions, youth networks, and governmental bodies to help educate and train youth. Many members of Virajoven are part of other youth networks and facilitate the dialogue with them. Viração offers its expertise in democratic production training and youth mobilization through one section of the magazine dedicated to educational institutions. Viração has also formed a partnership with the Youth Citizen Generation Social Consortium that offers courses on professional training and citizenship for 2000 young people in six municipalities in the metropolitan area of São Paulo. The youth in this training project are developing a visual communication of the project as well as a monthly journal with a circulation of 5,000 print pieces as well as an online version. Increasing the number of readers is essential to accomplishing the goal of becoming a leader and reference in the field of participatory and educational communication. Magazines are distributed to businesses, public schools, as well as health and human rights departments in government and social organizations. The magazine is published monthly but also has a virtual version that is updated daily and includes a discussion forum for dialogue and exchange between writers, editors, and readers. Viração was also recently disseminated at the World Social Forum through the News Agency of Virajoven, composed of 40 middle school volunteers, journalism students and journalists from various states that follow and publish material about the event. Four thousand magazines are produced monthly. The subscribers receive 3,000 magazines (2,000 for the Communication and Education Nucleus of the University of São Paulo and 1,000 for the Youth Citizen Generation Social Consortium). The rest are used in events or donated to schools and public libraries. A special about HIV and Aids had a circulation of 12,000 financed by UNICEF and 20,000 financed by the Ministry of Health and Education (these were sent to 13,000 public middle schools). UNICEF has already sent a proposal to buy 3,000 more copies. Paulo is now beginning to negotiate spaces for advertising in order to bring more money to the organization and amplify the number of copies and readers.Paulo is working on two additional initiatives locally in São Paulo. The first is to publish daily newspapers that can be pasted onto a school wall or city plaza for maximum public exposure without large printing costs. Beginning in 2004, he has to date published 30 daily wall newspapers. He is also working with existing groups that have significant reach: for example, he works with a group called Pastoral Youth Organization, a national group that has 30,000 youth organizations under its umbrella. In the next three years, he hopes to encourage 9,000 of these local youth groups to adopt their own newspapers. Paulo sees the importance of connecting to the government as well. The Social Development Ministry has contracted him to write up his methodology. Next, he will embark on an effort to teach 4,000 social workers to use the methodology and link them with contributing youth groups.
Paulo was born in the Lagamar favela on the outskirts of Fortaleza, a city marked by violence. The son of a black father and a mother of indigenous origins, he grew up ashamed of his father’s ethnicity. As a teenager, Paulo joined a Catholic youth group and developed a connection to others who were trying to positively influence the lives of poor people through adult education and community communication.In 1985, Paulo decided to study philosophy at São Luís in Maranhão seminary. He maintained his work on local communication, contributing to projects such as the production of a magazine in the form of a mural, and a community radio and fanzine. Upon his return to Lagamar in 1988, he worked on a project of inclusion of people of African descent. During this period, Paulo contributed to the black movement with a community radio that was supported by young people. From 1990 to 1995, Paulo lived in Rome, where he finished his studies in theology and social communication. While working intensively with African and Latin American immigrants, he realized that he wanted to work outside the Church and for the benefit of Brazilians. He returned to São Paulo and for seven years worked with Without Boundaries, a publication that for more than 30 years reported on social movements and the citizen sector. During this time, he completed a degree in journalism at the University of Casper Libero.While directing Without Boundaries, Paulo participated in human rights campaigns and led the magazine to win the Human Rights Prize of the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo in 2002. Paulo won the Journalist Friend of Children Prize awarded by UNICEF, ANDI, and Abrinq Foundation, an award designed to recognize journalists who stand out in their work in the defense for children and adolescents. In 2002, the magazine Brasil de Fato was born. Paulo continues as an editor of this weekly publication connected to social movements and syndicates.In 2003, Paulo created Viração Magazine in partnership with the Nucleus of Communication and Education of the Communication and Art School of the University of São Paulo, to which he has dedicated himself full time.