Conteudo Cabeçalho Rodape

When the International Day of Afro-Latina and Afro-Caribbean Women was established on July 25, 1992, black women gathered in the Dominican Republic to discuss the challenges of race, gender, and class in the region. The date was created to commemorate quilombola leader Tereza de Benguela to give visibility and value to the contributions of us black women in defense of human rights and the fight against racism. Thirty-one years later, we have made significant progress thanks to the efforts of our ancestors and contemporary leaders who have won many battles for our emancipation. However, challenges remain as a collective fight - locally and globally.

Recognizing and acknowledging that racism manifests differently depending on the regional context is crucial. While it might appear as a localized problem with unique characteristics, we must understand that racism is a global issue that demands systemic solutions. We need disruptive strategies beyond the local level to bring about significant change, vastly transforming the position of black people, especially black women, in society.

I hold this belief because, as the head of racial equity at the Lemann Foundation, I have had the opportunity to engage with many black women in leadership positions worldwide. Not only have I learned from many inspiring leaders, but I have also realized that empowering the careers of black women and ensuring that they support each other are fundamental elements in our quest for emancipation and healing from historical oppression on a global scale.

In Latin America, our specific challenges are often overlooked due to cunning strategies of invisibility. Unfortunately, the world fails to recognize the region as a place of significant racial inequality. In Brazil, the myth of racial democracy perpetuates this misunderstanding both within our society and internationally. Even within global black communities, I find that many are surprised to learn about the challenges black women face in the Brazilian and Latin American contexts. This lack of recognition leads to minimal investment in racial and gender equality agendas in the region and the country.

Despite comprising 27% of the population in Brazil, according to 2021 data from IBGE, black women are severely underrepresented in positions of power. For example, they hold only 9% of the federal government’s top leadership positions. While their numbers may be small, they are powerful examples. Take the case of the Minister of Racial Equality, Anielle Franco, who, on international platforms, has made efforts to create connections and shed light on the challenges faced by Brazil while holding international actors accountable for benefiting from global inequality. In Spain, for instance, she signed an agreement to combat racism, xenophobia, and related forms of discrimination. At the time, Anielle aptly stated, “Many black women have reached decision-making spaces, but they still need to prove, daily, that they have what it takes to be there. I will continue to fight for other black women and men to occupy positions of power and leadership.”

Throughout history, building networks has been essential for black women to attain and retain leadership positions. I am grateful to all of them, be they from previous generations who fought, for example, for affirmative action policies or women’s inclusion in the workforce, people I’ve had the privilege to work with throughout my career, or those who now share my daily life and make me believe that an equal future is possible. Therefore, I also believe that supporting education and working with allies remains crucial to ensure that other black women can occupy and maintain leadership positions.

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