A 39-year-old Brazilian womanwho was subjected to domestic abuse from the age of 15 says the abuse took both a mental and physical toll on her.

"Since I was 18 until now, I didn't smile at all. All the photos I have I always keep my mouth shut. [I had a] low self-esteem, [I was] ashamed," says Ana Claudia Rocha Ferreira, who is a survivor of domestic violence.

Now, thanks to a network of volunteer dentists, Ana Claudia's life has been changed. The NGO, Apolonias do Bem, aims to rebuild the lives of battered women by fixing their teeth.

Armando Piva, a Apolonias do Bem dentist, says, "What we do with this project is not only give back a smile but give these women a smile on the inside to get over that situation, to have a higher self-esteem."

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With 1 700 participating doctors, the NGO extends beyond Brazil to 12 other Latin American countries and Portugal.

In Brazil alone, 16 million women suffered from some kind of physical or mental abuse last year. Of those incidents, 42% were cases of domestic violence.

Compiled by Phelokazi Mbude

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