UN Women Executive Director visits Brazil
On the second day of her visit to Brazil, Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka attended a ceremony commemorating the National Day of Black Consciousness, as a special guest of President Dilma Rousseff. She was accompanied by UN Women Representative in Brazil Nadine Gasman and UN Women Regional Director for the Americas and the Caribbean Luiza Carvalho. President Rousseff signed decrees expropriating land to be granted to quilombos (agricultural communities founded by escaped slaves) and delivered land rights and land use certificates to quilombolas representatives, mostly women. Also, the President gave a special greeting to black women present at the event, recalling the importance of secure spaces where their voices can be heard, stressing their strength, their struggle their dignity and their culture.
In the afternoon, in response to the Executive Director’s interest in learning about innovative projects in the fight to eliminate violence against women, the delegation visited the House of the Brazilian Woman, a place of refuge and support for survivors of domestic violence which is part of “Women Living Without Violence”, a project launched by the Brazilian Government in 2013. The House of the Brazilian Woman offers survivors psychological and legal assistance, support on health-related issues and guidance on employment opportunities, all under one roof.
On the evening of the final day of the Executive Director's visit to the Brazil, the Presidential Palace, O Palácio do Planalto, was lit in orange for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence aim to raise public awareness and mobilizing people everywhere to bring about change. Orange is the colour designated by the UNiTE campaign to symbolize a brighter future without violence.
"We are here today in Brazil to say that we must put an end to violence against women. We are here to say, down with racism and up with well-being." These were the words of UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to 20,000 participants at the March of Black Women against Racism and Violence and for "Good Living", held in Brasilia.
Daughters, mothers, grandmothers, midwives, ministers, academics, activists, domestic workers and a diverse range of women came from all over the country to draw attention to the double discrimination faced by women of African descent in Brazil on account of their gender and the colour of their skin.
Approximately 48 million black women constitute half the female population of Brazil, yet 70 per cent of the 13 million families benefiting from comprehensive social policies such as the Bolsa Familia (Family cash transfer) programme are headed by women of African descent. There are practically no black women in management roles in business and the 2015 Map of Violence indicates that killings of members of this group have increased by 54 per cent over 10 years. It is urgent to meet their specific needs to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women in Brazil.
During the march, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka met with women from the Irmandade de la Boa Muerte (Sisterhood of the Good Death), some of them nearly 100 years of age, whose existence and struggle has been linked ever since the nineteenth century to the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the culture of descendants of emancipated African slaves.
Alongside the Minister of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, Nilma Gomes; the Special Secretary for Policies for Women, Eleonora Menicucci; Member of the Federal Chamber of Deputies Benedita da Silva; activists and the only black professional interpreter in the country, the Executive Director reiterated UN Women's commitment to achieve full rights and empowerment for all the women in the world. “Your struggle is our struggle. UN Women's struggle is your struggle,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Finally, the Executive Director met with women representatives of the group organizing the march, members of UN’s Women Civil Society Advisory Group in Brazil and representatives of indigenous women from remote areas, including the Xingu in the Brazilian Amazon. The conversation focused not only on the challenges for women within their societies and the urban, institutional and daily violence they face, but also on its impact on the conservation and protection of the planet.
During the dialogue, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed the importance of the review conducted this year of the advances made and challenges remaining for gender equality in the context of the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which gave clear information to help strategize and address the numerous outstanding challenges. She also highlighted the opportunities presented by the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform the structural factors that persistently increase gender inequality, including cultural changes to address the roots of discrimination and violence.
During her meeting with President Dilma Rousseff, she discussed the relationship of UN Women with Brazil and the role that Brazil will play as President of the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the first to be held since adoption of the SDGs and which will take place in March 2016 in New York. The Executive Director expressed her confidence in Brazil's leadership on the agenda of other countries of the world for implementation of the SDGs in favour of women.
As the first day of her official visit came to a close, the huge television broadcasting tower and the Museum of the Republic, two icons of the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, were lit up to mark the start of the “Orange the World” initiative ahead of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.