Gabriela Silva Leite

leite-gabriela

Brazil

Founder, Davida
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gabriela Silva Leite is a human rights activist and sociologist who has dedicated the past thirty years of her life combating discrimination against prostitutes. Gabriela worked as a prostitute for more than a decade during the 1970s and 80s, a period in which she witnessed frequent violence against prostitutes and violations of her colleagues’ basic rights. She thus began to work towards organizing sex professionals, struggling in particular against the exploitation under which many of these women suffer. She became a pioneer of the prostitutes’ movement in Brazil as well as the anti-AIDS struggle in the 1980s, serving as a consultant for preventative actions among prostitutes in the National STD/AIDS Program of the Brazilian Health Ministry. In 1992, Gabriela founded and served as Executive Director of Davida – Prostituição, Direitos Civis, Saúde (Prostitution, Civil Rights and Health), an NGO in Rio de Janeiro working to end the discrimination of prostitutes and improve the working conditions and the legal and societal status of prostitutes in Brazil. (The name “Davida” refers to the phrase “Mulheres da Vida,” or “women of life,” commonly used to refer to prostitutes in Brazil). She is also the founder of the Brazilian Network of Prostitutes, which has brought together 30 associations of prostitutes from across the country. Until the end of 2011, she was Latin American Director of the board of the Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP).

With the founding of Davida’s social enterprise, the fashion label Daspu, Gabriela gained national status as a cultural icon. The clothing line promotes sex worker rights and has been featured in the national and international mass media.

Gabriela’s acclaimed autobiography, “Daughter, Mother, Grandmother and Whore,” was published and released in 2010, and adapted for the stage in 2011/2012 and performed live in Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and São Paulo.