Getting ahead in Brazilian society continues to be much more difficult for black women

Pâmela Valero, 24, is a business administration student: a resident of Valparaiso de Goiás, will soon try a vacancy in the market .
Pâmela Valero, 24, is a business administration student: a resident of Valparaiso de Goiás, will soon try a vacancy in the market .

Note from BW of Brazil: Today, March 21st, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. As such today’s feature is very timely as it analyzes the challenges and progress of black Brazilian women trying to advance in a Brazilian society that continues to try to maintain them in the position historically reserved for the them: the bottom. As we try to show on this blog dedicated to this parcel of the population, there have been a number of individual advancements for a number of black women, but as a whole, there is still a ways to go in uplifting the vast majority of these women. The news below specifically focuses on Brasília, Brazil’s Federal Disctrict, but could be just as well be applied to black women across the country. 

Much more difficult for black women

Courtesy of Diário da Manhã

A resident of Jardim Céu Azul, in Valparaíso de Goiás (state of Goiás), Pâmela Valero, 24, studied Business Administration and is doing an internship in Asa Sul. In a few semesters, she will join the percentage of less than 3% of black women of the metropolitan periphery of Brasília with a completed college degree. The young woman knows that the things are more difficult. Her mother never studied and works as a daily laborer. “I will never stop studying because I know I can change my reality with knowledge; I want to be a businesswoman.”

The metropolitan periphery of Brasília, the region where Pâmela lives, consists of 12 municipalities of Goiás surrounding the DF (Federal District). There, 68.83% of women without an education or with an incomplete primary education are black. Black women are also 68.27% of the 90,000 women who earn up to one minimum wage per month – more than half of the 179,000 women (black and non-black women) who claim some income (44.76% of the female population of the periphery).

Near the Dia Internacional de Combate ao Racismo (International Day Against Racism), celebrated on March 21st, the figures show that, apparently, black women have a marked social place: the base of the pyramid.

The situation is even worse if we compare the female and male universes. While the average income of men is R$3,439 in the DF and R$1,403.66 in the metropolitan periphery, that of women is R$2,680 and R$812.61, respectively. (1)


Gabriela Ribeiro Dias, 21, a street vendor, failed to complete her education: everything is more complicated
Gabriela Ribeiro Dias, 21, a street vendor, failed to complete her education: everything is more complicated

In the Federal District, negras (black women) represent 63.94% of the women who studied little and 34.75% of those with a higher education. The street vendor Gabriela Ribeiro Dias, 21, of Riacho Fundo II, Didn’t manage to complete her studies. “I’ve been a maid, taken care of children and worked in the Rodoviária do Plano Piloto for four years,” says the young woman. She has worked since 13 years and studied until the 2nd year of high school. “My dream is to be a firefighter, but I still don’t know when I’ll be able to accomplish it.”

Of the nearly 2 million women of the DF and metropolitan periphery of Brasília, more than half are black. They make up 55.01% of the nearly 1.5 million women living in the Federation unit. In the metropolitan periphery, they represent 65.55% of the nearly 500,000 women living in the cities. Still, they spend less time in school, earn lower wages and are the majority among those working in the informal job market (in the DF, negras represent 68.77% of workers without a carteira de trabalho assinada or formal work contract).

The data was released on March 5th, through the study “Mulheres no Distrito Federal e nos Municípios Metropolitanos: Perfis da Desigualdade” (Women in the Federal District and Metropolitan Municipalities: Profiles of Inequality), done by the Companhia de Planejamento do Distrito Federal (Codeplan or Planning Company of the Federal District) based on the census of 2010, of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).

The study portrays socioeconomic differences of women from the perspective of racism and sexism in the Federal District and 12 municipalities of Goiás within the metropolitan periphery of Brasília: Águas Lindas, Alexânia, Cidade Ocidental, Cristalina, Cocalzinho, Formosa, Luziânia, Novo Gama, Padre Bernardo, Planaltina, Santo Antônio do Descoberto and Valparaíso.

Broad picture of inequalities

Vera Araújo, ministra of SEPPIR Nilma Lino Gomes and Marise Nogueira
Vera Araújo, minister of SEPPIR Nilma Lino Gomes and Marise Nogueira

Statistics show that the picture of inequality is wide and interconnected. For the Secretary of Políticas para Mulheres, Igualdade Racial e Direitos Humanos (Policies for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights), Marise Nogueira, present on the day of release of the study by Codeplan, the reality expressed by the numbers reinforces the differences between men, black women and non-black women are real.

She stressed that racism makes more difference in the social fabric than sexism itself of Brazilian society, and that both are bases of violence.

Aiming to reduce disparities, the secretary put forward that the folder created on January 1, will design public policies that promote full citizenship, dignity and for all based on the data. “I represent a black woman who escaped from this picture, but this should not be viewed positively, because I am an exception. The state’s role is to create equal opportunities for all, even though we are not all the same,” said Marise.

According to Assistant Secretary of Policies for Racial Equality, of the Secretariat of Policies for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, Vera Lúcia Araújo, Codeplan statistics underlie theories and underpin public policies for black women in the Federal District and the metropolitan periphery.

Inequality and the wage gap marked by a racial profile is crucial for thinking about the occupation of the feminine space,” she says. Vera points out that, across the country, black women are mostly represented in the labor market by domestic workers – which varies among the federal units is the salary received: “The responsibility for the exclusion of women and especially of black women is the full responsibility the State.”

She recalls that the secretariat formulates policies of inclusion for the labor market. “We studied doing a project introducing a afroempreendedorismo (Afro-entrepreneurialism) policy, in partnership with the private sector.” The idea is to empower black men and women into the labor market and invest in the African aesthetic for the imput of production and marketing activities, as in the fashion industry.

For maid Ivani of Jesus, 29, the idea seems good. A resident of Alexânia (GO), she left school to go to work, but didn’t see growth in the profession. “I would you like to do any other service. We, black women are more battling and we have always been in the market, it’s a shame that we don’t get the best jobs,” she laments.


The Assistant Secretary of the folder believes that greater inequality between black and non-black women is prejudice. “Men and women are equivalent in hierarchical situations,” explains Vera Lúcia. According to her, the solidarity of non-black women compared to black is restricted. “Usually, they are the employers, those who refuse to sign a carteira de trabalho (official work contract),” she says.

A professor at the University of Brasília Tânia Montoro, a post-doctorate in communication and culture, adds that, historically, the mulher negra brasileira (black Brazilian woman) suffers all the oppressions across the board: class, gender, age and race. “The homem negro (black man) is very sexist; homosexual women are also rejected by the black community,” she explains. For her, the current policy of combating racism and sexism in Brazil is weak, and the state’s focus should be on investment in quality public education. “Black women today that reach the university and ascend in the labor market are hardly those of the social base,” she says.

The researcher points out that policies should be directed toward black culture, mainly because Brazil is a diverse country. “There is a world of blackness we do not know,” she said. “We have to use our affirmative policies to appreciate its quality and the black aesthetic and not just mask them.”

Source: DM


1. Currently, 1 US dollar is worth 3.23 Brazilian reais. As such, the respective values of the aforementioned figures are $1,065, $434.50, $830 and $251.50.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. I would love to see more of these women starting their own businesses , rather than focussing only on getting a corporate or government job. This whole country needs virtually everything, and there is a lot of money to be made! i myself have thoght of starting a professional cleaning service or dogwalking service. This work is seen as degrading here, but in “developed” countries, these are money makers! Also , any kind of specialist in virtually any area -be it medicine, law, accounting, painring, plumbing, teaching… you name it – typically does quite well here, if the person is also entrepreneurial. I earn significantly more as a teacher here than I did as a nurse in the US! Also, my blackness seems to work to my advantage here because there are no Black professionals in this area.

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