Brazil's First National Conference on Public Policy has begun talks on the
"Challenge of equality for women." The conference being held in
Brasília has brought together 2,000 participants who will draw up the
guidelines for the government's First National Plan for Policies for Women.
This is the first conference
of its kind, with broad participation of women from all parts of the Brazil.
Preparations have extended over various months with representatives from thousands
of municipalities providing input and presenting proposals.
"We hope the government
will in fact establish guidelines for a National Plan for women," says
Natalia Mori, a congressional aide for the CFEMEA (Centro Feminista de Estudos
e AssessoriaFeminist Center for Studies and Assistance). She says that
the conference will discuss relevant issues, such as sexual and reproductive
rights, the legalization of abortion, and access for women to jobs and income.
Paula de Andrade, the
secretary of AMB (Articulação de Mulheres BrasileirasBrazilian
Women's Articulation), another women's organization, praised the diversity
present at the conference. She points out that participants are from all parts
of the country, age and ethnic groups, educational levels, religions, sexual
orientations and socio-cultural classes. Such diversity, she says, strengthens
the conference and the influence it should have on the final plan for Pulbic
Policy for Women.
"We want solutions
that do not treat economic policy as something separate from social policy,"
added Paula de Andrade. "We seek policies that will involve the government
as a whole. And we want policy that recognizes the importance of women, allows
them to discuss the issues and participate actively in the decision-making
Poverty is young, female
and uneducated. In Brazil there are more poor women than men (52 percent to
48 percent). But at the same time, nowadays 30 percent of Brazilian households
are run by women.
The Special Secretary
for Policies for Women, Nilcéa Freire, explains that throughout history
women have been victims of prejudice and discrimination. They have simply
not had opportunities.
And when you add other
social variants, such as the woman being black, it means only a place at the
bottom of the social pyramid where the suffering is greater as the population
in general gets poorer.
The secretary explained
that the fight against inequality because of sex or race cannot be waged only
through general policies, such as economic growth to create jobs and income.
"It is necessary
to work within general policies on specific problems in order to achieve equality.
Today it is unimaginable to seek sustainable economic growth without the talent,
effort and determination of 52 percent of the populationits women,"
declared the secretary.
Challenges for Women
President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva, speaking at the opening of the First National Conference on
Policy for Women, declared that after years of struggle, women have made important
gains, such as higher levels of education. But, he admitted, there are still
The average salary of
a woman is lower than that of a man doing the same work. Women are also frequently
the victims of domestic violence. Lula pointed out that studies show that
one out of every three women has been the victim of some kind of violence.
Lula went on to say that
his administration is trying to promote equality between the sexes through
government policies, such as the Program for Prevention and Combat of Violence
against Women, a law that requires first aid stations to report cases of violence
against women, and a special rural credit line for family farming. Lula added
that deeds to land acquired through government land reform programs are now
issued in the names of both husband and wife.
Finally, Lula got a big
round of applause when he said that in most arguments women are right. "They
do not have to scream. They are different from us and do not have to resort
to bravados. And we have to admit that most of the time they are right,"
said the president.
Maria Geruza Rocha has
a grievance she will present at the First National Conference on Public Policy.
She represents women who work with coconuts (there are various kinds in Brazil).
Her movement (Movimento
Interestadual das Quebradeiras de CocoInterstate Movement of Coconut
Crackers) exists in four states: Maranhão, Pará, Tocantins and
At the conference, Maria
Geruza will call for a law to protect the more than 500 coconut workers in
the four states, giving them social security benefits and healthcare.
One of her arguments is
that there are 63 economically viable uses for the oil of a small coconut
that comes from the babassu palm tree (Orbignya barbosiana), ranging from
cosmetics to a pollution-free fuel.
Bianca Estrella works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.