Note from BW of Brazil: The issue of having a political presence, voice and representation is a question that has long plagued the black Brazilian community. How would it be possible to make positive changes in society that excludes you if you don’t have representation in the areas of power? Regardless of which major political party they support, black Brazilians are for all intents and purposes, frozen out of leadership positions of these parties in which they can provoke change. Whether we talk the Câmara (House), the Senate, the Governor’s mansion or the Presidency, Afro-Brazilians are either vastly under-represented or not represented at all. And one of the major reasons for this unbalanced scenario is because donors who fund political campaigns have no interest in supporting any sort of black agenda, which is why black candidates receive only about one-third of the financial support that white candidates receive.
Now if this the political situation for black Brazilians as a whole, can you imagine the situation for black Brazilian women who try to earn a seat in a political office? Consider this: In 2016 elections, out of 493,534 candidates across Brazil, 7,818 women were elected to city councils, of which only 32 black women (mulheres negras) were elected. Of these 32, 26 defined themselves as parda (brown/mixed) while only six defined themselves as preta (black). When we consider this shocking under-representation, we can really see why it was such a devastating loss to black women when Rio councilwoman Marielle Franco was gunned down in March. To begin the process of changing these numbers, recently a group of black women organized a network to discuss tactics for getting more black Brazilian into key positions in the political landscape.
Umunna Network organizes to encourage participation of black women in politics
By Victoria Régia da Silva*, courtesy of Agência Patrícia Galvão
How do you engage mulheres negras (black women) in the electoral debate and in institutional politics? It was with this question in mind that a group of black women joined in the first open meeting of the Rede Umunnas (Umunnas Network), to think about a network of their encouragement and strengthening in politics on Thursday (04/26) in Rio de Janeiro.
On the same day of the execution of the female councilwoman of Rio de Janeiro, Marielle Franco, on March 14, Umunnas was born, a network that connects black women who want to discuss institutional politics and spaces of power. Umunna, which means clan or brotherhood in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria, was created by five black women who believe that discussing and qualifying the political debate generates transformational changes.
“We want to follow the performance of black women who are in the struggle for institutional policy to identify the eligibility barriers of black women. We will create indicators on the candidacies of black women in 2018 to help in a future perception of these barriers,” commented Gabriele Roza, network coordinator and journalist.
Besides Roza, the coordinators are Juliana Marques, with a degree in Statistics; Diana Mendes, with a background in International Relations and Public Policy; Ana Carolina Lourenço, a graduate of Social Sciences and Lorena Pereira, systems analyst. They participated in the Minas de Dados initiative, an initiative of Transparência Brasil, Olabi e Data_Labe, in a four-week immersion in open data, narratives and technology for governments. From this immersion the network was born , which will be structured throughout the electoral process and soon will organize meetings in other States.
Mulheres negras decidem (Black women decide)
“If there is a positive data on black women, it is that we are the largest Brazilian electoral force,” said Ana Carolina Lourenço, supported by data showing that black women are 27% of the Brazilian population. According to the social scientist, “in a country with a deepening of violence and genocide [against black people], the size of the troop matters.”
Based on this data the main project of the network for 2018 was thought up, #MulheresNegrasDecidem. The idea is to create spaces for black women to debate politics, produce content on the theme and encourage the presence of black women in institutional politics. The project is organized on two fronts: civic engagement and the accompaniment of black pre-candidates. The first is focused on producing content on black women for a site to be launched in the coming months and encouraging them to participate in the electoral debate. The second focuses on monitoring of candidacies of black women.
In March, Gênero e Número (Gender and Number) dealt with the underrepresentation of black women in politics, showing that self-described black women, such as Marielle, are less than 1% in the Câmaras de Vereadores do Brasil (City Councils of Brazil). Pretas e pardas (black and brown women) combined are 5% of the elected councilors in 2016.
*Victoria Régia da Silva is a journalist and contributor to Gender and Number.