Maria Raquel Ferreira Castela Abecasis was a journalist for 28 years in Rádio Renascença, where she was a national and international reporter (she covered in particular the changes and conflicts in the Middle East, including the first gulf war), she was editor of national politics, chief of staff and associate director of Rádio Renascença.
During her professional life, she was also a volunteer in the Hospital Curry Cabral, Hospital Miguel Bombarda and she is the founder and volunteer of Refood Estrela.
In 2017, she accepted the invitation of Assunção Cristas to run as an independent candidate for the CDS Party in the parish council of Avenidas Novas – she accepted the invitation, and her professional life was turned upside down.
As of now, she is a member of the Assembly of the Parish Council of Avenidas Novas and she coordinates the work of a group that is present not only in the Assembly of the Parish Council, but also in the executive office in coalition with the Socialist Party.
She is also coordinating the office of the councilmen of CDS in the Lisbon Municipality.
Finally, she is coordinating the cycle of sessions Hear Portugal, a cycle to take place all over the country, where the goal is to discuss relevant themes for the country featuring independent protagonists who can bring fresh and useful perspectives for decision-makers. This initiative was created from an invitation by Assunção Cristas to Raquel Abecasis, Sebastião Lencastre and Pedro Mexia.
“From policy to practice: making real impact a reality” session
In October of 2017, I ran as a candidate for the parish council of Avenidas Novas in Lisbon. At that time, I was confronted with the urgent need to find an answer to one of the biggest problems of Alto do Parque’s neighborhood, which has seen in recent years a dramatic increase of prostitution in its streets that exposes the degrading condition most of those women are exposed to, most of them from a foreign country.
This phenomenon has generated an environment of increased tension in the neighborhood and it has become increasingly dangerous for those women who are transported to the neighborhood for prostitution in a daily basis.
In face of this concrete situation, we, the elected members of the CDS party in the parish council of Avenidas Novas, decided we could not just stand by and we started looking for people who could help us build an integrated project to solve or at least minimize prostitution in that area.
It was important to us from to have the full picture of the situation from the beginning, and try to understand who are these women, where do they come from and what led them to prostitute themselves. We believe it is fundamental that the solution we find is not a mere transfer of prostitution to another neighborhood. What we want is to propose a strong strategy that can diminish the amount of people who are subjected every day to a life that goes against their human rights.
Therefore, our proposal is to make a pilot-project in the Alto do Parque neighborhood which can be expanded to the city and has effective results in the re-integration of these people.
We propose that the parish council of Avenidas Novas creates a multidisciplinary team that includes the main institutions which devote themselves to combat prostitution, poverty and drug addiction, as well as social and private sector entities, preferably headquartered in the neighborhood. This would be done to do a substancial diagnosis of the situation and offer an individual support that makes it possible for everyone to have a dignified life.
To reach this goal it is fundamental that we collaborate with specific programs, some of them already existing at the municipal or state level.