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Doubly disadvantaged: Black women

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"in Brazil, poverty has a color, and that color is black." - with black women being
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"In Brazil, poverty has a color, and that color is black." - Having that said, black women are doubly disadvantaged.
“Brazil is a racial democracy! We don’t discriminate against anyone,” say some; “That’s a myth!” reply others, pointing to statistics that show all too clearly the correlation between ethnicity and hierarchy. According to opinion poll evidence, Brazil is a racist country whose citizens all consider themselves to be nonracist. The whites pretend not to discriminate against the blacks, and the blacks pretend not to be discriminated against, explains Mauricio Pestana, the editor of Raça Brasil. “We most certainly do feel discriminated against,” say the Afro-Brazilian women and men who are combating racism, both overt and covert.

In the end, the statistics leave no room for doubt: in Brazil, poverty has a color, and that color is black. It is black women who have the lowest income, earning only one-third of a white man’s average earnings. CRIOLA, a group of black women in Rio de Janeiro founded in 1992, has set itself the goal of empowering black girls, teenagers, and women to become agents of change – change away from racism, sexism, and homophobia – and to foster a society of justice, fairness, and solidarity that regards black women’s contribution as a benefit for the community.

CRIOLA activities have reached more than 5,000 women, say the group’s members with justified pride.

CRIOLA has championed the rights of domestic servants, who are mostly black women working under often shameful conditions. Together with a small trade union, black parliamentarians, and others, CRIOLA organized a campaign for these women’s legal protection. The campaign was successful, and today a law exists to regulate working hours and employee benefits. Changes in tax legislation now also encourage legalized employment.

But CRIOLA’s work extends beyond this, and the group has become “an important reference point in the Black Movement,” says Fatheuer, at the Rio de Janeiro office, which has worked with CRIOLA for many years. CRIOLA coordinator Lúcia Xavier stresses that the organization has helped push Brazilian politics (especially under President Lula da Silva) into taking a series of steps in support of Afro-Brazilians: from the changes in the school syllabus and quota regulations in the universities, to specific programs and government departments, right up to the appointment of four black cabinet members. To ensure that measures like these “from above” also strike deep roots “from below,” CRIOLA is actively assisting a new government program designed to improve healthcare provisions for black women. That is an important stage in the fight against institutional racism, which, says Lúcia Xavier, exists “not only in the health system, but also in schools and the law courts. That is why we need a different democracy: one with a fair distribution of income.”


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This Article is published in Gender Politics Makes a Difference - Experiences of the Heinrich Böll Foundation across the world.