From the end of January, Meninadança began to undertake the task of beginning a new project in Padre Paraíso.
Many of the girls we have been getting alongside are daughters of pimps and prostitutes.
We have been carrying out art, nail-painting, karaoke and culinary sessions informally to get to know the girls before the dance school is officially opened. Thankfully we have been given a space for free while renovations are done on the building we will permanently use.
Some of the girls are chatty and open, but with the girls who have already had so much negativity thrown at them from an early age, their eyes are heavy with the consequences of deprivation and harrowing experiences.
Like 15-year-old Pamela, whose mum is trying to hold the family together with a domestic help job. Pamela has two sisters, has given up on school and lives in the most deprived borough of the city. Their father has left the family home.
Her and her sisters, 13 and 17, spend their evenings dancing sensually in a local bar where men exploit their vulnerability. Pamela is withdrawn and looks haunted by the experiences she has been subjected to.
We have also heard how girls involved in sexual exploitation float past the petrol station near the entrance to the city late at night, touting for punters. We have been unable, as of yet, to track down these girls while they are working the motorway, sometimes arriving at the wrong time of night.
However, it seems that we have found the ideal location and time in order to be able to converse with them and invite them to take part in the project over the next couple of weeks.
Over the last couple of months I have also met with many courageous, dignified ladies who were formerly involved in prostitution and lived their lives in small brothels, concentrated on one side of the city where our Pink House will be established.
These women support what Meninadança is hoping to do and have come together to help us.
The other week they gathered together at the building which will be the Pink House to sweep away the centimeter crust of dirt in the house so that the girls could make brigadeiro, a Brazilian sweet.
One of the ladies also made a cake for the girls the following week, without any prompting to do so.
It seems that they do not want the current female generation to suffer the degradation that they had to endure at the hands of diamond mine workers in the days when the mines were flourishing here. Miners would pass through the city on their way to or from the mines, looking for “entertainment.”
The effects of sexual violence towards children are blatantly evident everywhere in Padre Paraiso.
The shocking reality that girls deal with frequently confronted me on the first night that I arrived, when intruders broke into a house, robbed an elderly woman and raped her two young granddaughters. As of yet, the perpetrators of the crime have not been caught.
One mother spoke with me on the phone this week, desperately afraid after an incident had occurred involving her daughter and niece as they were walking back home at 8.30pm one night. A motorist pulled up alongside the girls and showed them a knife from inside his car, and told the girls to get in the back seat. The girls are 11 and 12.
Fortunately, they decided to back away and ran back home to call for help. The man was caught by police, but let off.
Our future dance teacher told me how she had conversations with various truck drivers who are known to use the girls in her city, which is an hour away.
The drivers rationalise their acts by seeing the girls as inhuman, like objects, that are incapable of doing anything else but offer their bodies as a commodity.
Our teacher asked: “But what if she was your daughter?” They commonly replied: "She wouldn’t ever do that" - as if the girls on the motorway can’t be equated with a “normal” child who needs to play, learn and have aspirations like any other.
Those "objects" are the girls I have been getting to know, beautiful, precious young lives full of hopes and dreams, trapped in an unfair and dangerous world. Please help us show them how much they are worth.