In 2008, Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu presented Mayra Avellar Neves, at the age of 17, the Children’s Peace Prize, for her ongoing fight against the violence in the favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and her own favela, Vila Cruzeiro, in particular.
When Mayra was only 11 years old, her favela was closed off by so many checkpoints that schools and clinics had to be closed because doctors and teachers could not reach them. She, however, refused to accept this and found another school outside the favela and demanded her right to education. When Mayra was 15 years old, she mobilized hundreds of youths to participate in a community march against violence. Their direct demand was that the police should stop patrolling around schools during the times that children walk to and from school. This took great courage, as the march passed by many of these armed police patrols. More than 300 children participated in the ´Walk for Peace´. As a result of this action the police agreed to the demands and children started coming back to school again – a great achievement with far-reaching implications for life in the favela.
She is also still involved in a programme called Girls-Mothers. This programme speaks with teenage mothers about the risks of teenage pregnancy and motherhood and about possible ways of prevention.
Next to her social activism, Mayra also studies social sciences at the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. After her studies, Mayra wants to be teacher so she can pass on the knowledge she has gained through life and her educational career.