Activists from the Black Women’s Movement in Brazil and a wide array of social organizations marched on Wednesday, November 18th 2015 to commemorate the first National Black Women’s March Against Racism, Violence and for Well Being. Over 10,000 activists from all over Brazil marched through the country’s capital city, Brasilia, demanding visibility of the challenges faced by Afro-Brazilian women and that these issues be acknowledged by the government through policies that promote race and gender equality.
Lead activists pass by on a Trio Eléctrico.
Activists from the Black Women’s Movement in Brazil and a wide array of social organizations marched on Wednesday November 18th 2015 to commemorate the first National Black Women’s March Against Racism, Violence and for Well Being . Over 10,000 activists from all over Brazil marched through the country’s capital city, Brasilia, D.F. from Ginásio Nilson Nelson to the Congresso Nacional demanding visibility of the challenges faced by Afro-Brazilian women and that these issues be acknowledged by the government through policies that promote race and gender equality.
Approximately 10,000 activists marched from the Ginásio Nilson Nelson through the Esplanada, ending at the Congresso Nacional.
The march took place just two days before Brazilian’s National Black Consciousness Day, dedicated to Quilombo Resistance Leader, Zumbi Dos Palmares and during Black November, a month that celebrates Afro-Brazilian culture and history. Throughout the week of National Black Conscious Day celebrations are held throughout various cities with cultural shows, political debates and marches aimed toward creating black consciousness particularly among black youth.
The organizers emphasized that there is power and strength behind the mobilization of black women in Brazil. In a society that holds on to both a legacy of racial democracy and deems black women seemingly invisible, this mobilization is especially powerful because it displays a gathering of thousands of women reaffirming their blackness, awareness of the discrimination they face because of this identity and their ability to react and organize around these issues.
Despite composing 25% of Brazil’s population, Afro-Brazilian women are still most predisposed to different forms of discrimination, ranking the lowest among several different social indexes. The Map of Violence 2015 released by the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLASCO) revealed large racial discrepancies in women’s exposure to violence in Brazil. It showed that the number of femicides of black women has grown 54% over the past 10 years, while femicides of white women has dropped about 10%.
The same discrepancies are present in the workforce where the Inter-union Department of Statistics and Socio-economic Studies (DIEESE) reports a 19% wage gap between black women and non-black women and a 46% gap between non-black men, demonstrating in addition to predisposition to violence, a lack of access to social upward mobility.
These large discrepancies demonstrate the reality that black women are often neglected by public policy where polices created do not assure them the same types of rights and protections as their white female counter parts. These very clear inequalities resonate with exactly what activists were marching for; a call for interventions that will guarantee black women to be acknowledged as citizens who are afforded the right to life, freedom and access.
The march ended early when a pro-impeachment protester who had been camping in front of the Congresso Nacional confronted activists. The protester, a civil police officer in support of the impeachment of President Rousseff and for military intervention was armed and allegedly shot multiple times into the air causing mass confusion and chaos but was shortly detained. Noone was injured, however this exemplifies the violence black women face and risk on an everyday basis and exactly what they are marching against.
After the march, President Rouseff Dilma held a meeting with leading activists from various black women’s organization to discuss steps going forward. Afterward she showed her support for the movement, by sending out a series of tweets confirming her dedication to promoting racial equality, preventing gender based violence and fully integrating black women into Brazilian society.
Black women are playing the protagonists of a movement that will profoundly affect their lives, while the convening of black women activists from across the country will surely create a foundation for action to take place in the future.
Young activists hold signs saying “Black Women Against PL 5069/13”, detesting a law proposed by Mayor Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), which would require rape victims to prove that they have been raped in order qualify for a legal abortion.
A woman holds a sign saying, “The Color of Resistance is BLACK.”
Among the list of demands during the Black Women’s March was to put a stop to racial police violence. “Stop the Massacres! What I really want is for the police killings to stop!”
The back of a protester reads “NO to Racism.”
A woman’s back reads “BLACK WOMEN IN POWER.”
“We March Against the Genocide of Black and Indigenous Youth.”
Somer Nowak is recent graduate of Marquette University and a Fulbright Scholar. Her interests surround race and social movements in Latin America, specifically focused on black women and black resistance movements in Brazil.