Female empowerment and children engaged in Recife's Urban Lab

People painting concrete sidewalks with vibrant colours
© Marília Farias / WRI Brazil

Changes led by people, in collaboration with several partners, sparked transformations in the Pilar Community, in downtown Recife, which is gradually turning into a less arid and more vibrant, inclusive and welcoming environment through the Transformative Urban Coalitions (TUC) project.

The initiatives promoted in the urban labs are collaboratively created by the communities, their residents and actors from different sectors that interact with each territory. The main objective is to promote inclusive and sustainable transformations that improve the quality of life and the environment. In 2023, the work involved a series of meetings, planning sessions, work efforts and celebrations, including social urbanism events, the group effort, or “mutirão”, to create the Childhood Route, the  handicraft workshop for women and the presentation of the initiative at COP28, in addition to the group’s participation in events on active mobility, social urbanism, among others.

In Recife, interventions in the territory aim to improve public spaces with a focus on children, promote sustainable solutions and implement community-led initiatives, all while enhancing the political and financial autonomy of the area’s residents. The idea is to join forces so that everyone involved can collaborate to make urban systems more integrated and resilient.

Childhood Route invites children to redesign the neighborhood

One of the initiatives led by the Alliance in Recife was the Childhood Route. With the active participation of the community’s children, a section of the neighborhood that had already received temporary interventions in 2022 went through a permanent reconfiguration. The initiative’s objective is to establish safe routes for travel and recreational activities in public spaces, promoting the integration of the Pilar Community with the rest of Bairro do Recife neighborhood.

The core idea is that children must be considered a priority in urban planning. To achieve this, it is necessary to ensure the existence of sidewalks, squares and other spaces that meet children’s developmental needs, with an emphasis on playing. The new street was collectively designed with residents, including adults and children, through active listening activities.

To create a more welcoming environment for children, the Alliance implemented improvements such as sidewalk extensions, painting on the ground, installation of permanent street furniture and the planting of ipê seedlings (a tree species suitable for the region's climate). When grown, the trees will generate environmental comfort. The section chosen for the intervention is a dead-end street, which facilitated the transformation into a shared street, where drivers are encouraged to slow down and the main users are pedestrians, especially children.

Waste turns into income, sustainability and inclusion

The Working Groups defined to support the execution of the Alliance's various activities in the Community include the Sustainable Cycle for Solid Waste WG. This group works to increase residents' awareness about solid waste and demonstrate the potential of proper waste disposal for income generation.
Accordingly, the WG develops a series of actions, such as workshops, visits to cooperatives and preparation of spaces for the correct sorting and treatment of waste, aimed at improving working conditions and income of waste collectors who live in the Community and work both daily and occasionally in recycling activities.

Another activity focused on income generation from recycling is a handicraft and design workshop offered to the Community’s women, with remarkable results. Around 30 women attend the workshops promoted by the Alliance. As part of the workshops, the artisans have visited various cultural spaces in the city in search of repertoire and inspiration.

The initial focus is the application of the paper mache technique, very popular in Pernambuco, for the creation of decorative objects from recycled paper. The artisans have been creating necklaces and other pieces inspired by pieces from other artisans who work with ceramics. The course builds a bridge between interior design trends and the possibility of production of selected pieces using recycled materials.

The result of this work was shown in an exhibition at COP28, highlighting the quality and originality of the group's creations. The artisans also participated in the Christmas fair promoted by Recife’s municipal government at the end of 2023, exhibiting the pieces and expanding their experience with commercial activities. These collective actions demonstrate the transformative potential of local initiatives promoted by the Alliance in favor of sustainable development, cultural appreciation and income generation.

Similar to Teresina, the Alliance for the Center of Recife also discusses decent housing issues and the creation of a community center. The Pilar Community has been experiencing a slow process of urbanization and construction of a housing complex. A Working Group focused on housing works to facilitate improvements to the buildings already delivered, promote sustainable technologies for future buildings and implement a condominium management program to be jointly managed by residents and Recife’s municipal government, which owns the properties.

Celebration at Pilar and vision for 2024

In December, the Alliance for the Center of Recife ended the year with a two-day festival at the Pilar Community, celebrating the achievements of 2023. On the first day, the event featured an opening performance by Pilar’s Maracatu group, activities such as bingo and distribution of gifts, as well as active listening about changes on Rua Primavera.

On the second day, a workshop was held on natural paint production (an ecological paint made with earth, water and glue). With this material and support from local artist Ianah Mello, residents created an artistic mural on one of the walls of the social housing complex.

On the same day, a workshop on community gardens helped children and adults understand the medicinal and nutritional properties of different plants, and participants received herb seedlings. This closing event reiterated the joint commitment to continue to contribute to the ongoing transformation of the city into a more sustainable, humanized and welcoming environment.