Booming Brazil

For key stage 3 and GCSE pupils: meet a young entrepreneur from Brazil's favelas and see how life is changing in Rio in the build up to the 2016 Olympics

Booming Brazil dur 6,22

Brazilian favelas

Cantagalo favela in the hillside of Rio Cantagalo favela in the hillside of Rio

Favelas are shanty towns built on Rio's steep hillsides. A tight network of houses is linked together by narrow alleyways.

Many favelas have no proper roads or sewers and, perched precariously on the hillside, the houses sometimes get washed away by floods.

Some favelas are ruled by criminal gangs, which means life can be dangerous.

In January 2012, Brazil overtook the UK as the fifth largest economy in the world. Despite this, nearly one in five of Rio's population live in favelas.


Budding Brazillian business women Joyce and Mayara Budding Brazillian business women Joyce and Mayara

Twenty year old Mayara lives with her mum, dad and two sisters in a small three room house. In her spare time, Mayara likes to box.

Mayara is a young entrepreneur aiming to set up a business in her community.

Mayara and her friend Joyce are developing a favela tourism agency. They will offer bed and breakfast and guided tours around the favela where they live.

They plan to launch their tourism agency in February 2012.

Cantagalo favela

Fave-la activity - Ballet school in Cantagalo Favela activity - Ballet school in Cantagalo

Mayara's favela is called Cantagalo. It has great views of Rio and many of the children there like to fly kites.

There's even the favela ballet which she will feature in her tours.

All the girls at the ballet school live in Cantagalo and former students have gone on to become international ballerinas.

Criminal gangs in the favela

Start Quote

Some people still have the idea that it's impossible to go into the favelas, that there are risks and that you can die or something bad will happen. And that's what we want to change. ”

End Quote Mayara, Cantagalo favela

Just two years ago, tourists rarely set foot in Cantagalo. Many favelas were ruled by drug lords and criminal gangs. Violence was commonplace. But things are changing.

In 2016 Rio will host the Olympic Games and the government wants to make improvements. Two years ago, the police moved into Mayara's favela, pushing the drug lords out.

Most people here think things are better, but the police face criticism for their near-constant patrols.

With the addition of a new lift, instead of having to climb hundreds of steps, the Cantagalo favela is more accessible than ever before.

However the area's past reputation still puts tourists off.

Mayara says: "Some people still have the idea that it's impossible to go into the favelas, that there are risks and that you can die or something bad will happen. And that's what we want to change. Change the view that people from outside still have of the favela."

Tourism in Brazil

Ipanema Beach in Rio, a place where tourism is thriving. Ipanema Beach in Rio: tourism is thriving

By 2020, the government would like to more than double the number of tourists visiting Brazil. It's good news for Mayara's project.

Mayara says: "We already have a large demand from tourists to come and see our natural beauties, come and try our food and culture.

"With the Olympics and the other mega events that are coming, this will bring a lot more attention, a lot more people. Our income will rise, and we'll also gain through cultural exchange."

Looking to the future

Mayara says: "The worst thing about living in the favela is the prejudice that we suffer. Some people have to lie about where they live. And that's the worst. Why? I'm a human being like you. I have the same rights that you have. That's the worst thing that happens here."

Lots of people would like to leave Cantagalo and move down to the city but not Mayara. She wants to harness the energies of Brazil's current economic boom and she plans to stay in her favela to build a brighter future.

Mayara is proud of her community and thinks she's got a really solid business idea.

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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