Black and poor women can decide who will be the next president of Brazil


This time, the electronic voting machines will show the names of two candidates, decided in the first round of the October 2 election: former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, of the Workers’ Party, and the current one. Jair Bolsonaro, president and candidate of the Liberal Party.

In the first round, Lula received 57.2 million votes (48.4% of the total), 1.8 million less than needed to reach the 50% victory threshold. Bolsonaro obtained just over 51 million votes (43.2% of the total), and in distant third place was the most prominent woman who ran for election: Simone Tebet of the Brazilian Democratic Movement party, with almost 5 million votes.

The polls predicted that Bolsonaro’s performance would be lower before the first round, but, within a margin of error, they were accurate in the percentage of votes that Lula could receive. Now, in this final phase of a highly polarized contest, some of the research institutes that conduct these polls are focusing on the choices women voters are making.

Women make up 51.1% of the Brazilian population and 53% of voters. In other words, there are 8 million more women voters than men.

In previous years, experts say this difference would have mattered less to presidential candidates. According to anthropologist Rosana Pinheiro-Machado, a professor at the School of Geography at University College Dublin in Ireland, the core of Bolsonaro’s supporters remains male and until recently, Brazilian women were not limited in politics and often voted like their husbands.

“That started to change from the Feminist Spring of 2015, when with the Internet and the dissemination of feminism on TV, radio, in schools, politics became a topic that was talked about among all women,” says Pinheiro-Machado, who studies both. the growth of the extreme right and feminism in Brazil’s marginalized communities.

As Pinheiro-Machado explains, the result of this growing political awareness among women is the growing opposition to Bolsonaro from women, especially poor women, after the rise of hunger and poverty during his presidency.

“The resistance against Bolsonaro is women in poor neighborhoods,” he told CNN.

Pinheiro-Machado’s analysis is supported by survey data. In a survey conducted by the Datafolha Institute between October 17 and 19, Lula is the leader among women. The institute conducted more than 2900 face-to-face interviews with voters over the age of 16 in 181 municipalities in all regions of the country. Among those surveyed, 51% of women said they intend to vote for the former president, and 42% said they will vote for Bolsonaro.

The need to appeal to women voters — and discontent with Bolsonaro among certain groups of women — is reflected in both Bolsonaro’s and Lula’s campaigns, where prominent women are put in the spotlight in an effort to appeal to voters.

Bolsonaro’s campaign has included first lady Michelle Bolsonaro and evangelical pastor Damares Alves, former Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, who was recently elected senator. Lula, on the other hand, has the support of Simone Tebet and has increased the visibility of his wife, the sociologist Rosângela da Silva (known as Janja), who has played an active role in coordinating the campaign agenda and engaging in dialogue with supporters.

Even among women, voters will be divided by class and race

While polling data can be flawed, there are other socio-economic and cultural trends that can help explain how women might vote on Sunday.

According to the Marielle Franco Institute, created to expand the legacy of the Rio de Janeiro councilwoman who was murdered in 2018, black women are the largest demographic group in the country, accounting for more than 25% of the population. This group is mostly made up of descendants of slaves (Brazil had the largest population of slaves of any country involved in the transatlantic slave trade, according to the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, which mapped data on the movement of slaves to slaves). world). This demographic is also very poor – and became even more so during the pandemic.

In this way, the anthropologist Pinheiro-Machado has stated that, although it is difficult to say with certainty, it is very likely that this group will support Lula. According to the survey by the Datafolha Institute, Lula has a lead among people with the lowest family income, 57% said they will vote for him, and 37% for Bolsonaro.

During his presidency from 2003 to 2011, Lula introduced Bolsa Familia, a government cash transfer program for low-income families based on certain conditions, such as keeping children in school and ensuring they receive vaccinations. Through this government program and others, Pinheiro-Machado believes that it changed women’s lives in “multiple ways”, enabling women’s empowerment on different levels, from self-esteem to improving opportunities for their daughters. A UN Women report states that of the 50 million people who benefited from Bolsa Familia, 92% are women who are responsible for their families.
Bolsonaro introduced a monthly benefit for low-income households known as Auxilio Brasil with restrictions on the profile of families eligible for it and this month brought up payment dates, which some critics say is politically motivated.

Pinheiro-Machado added that Bolsonaro also continues to give misogynistic speeches and attitudes, which further alienates these voters.

A low-income woman who was already an adult during Lula’s term would have remembered everything Bolsa Familia had done for her: the economic autonomy she had achieved, how much the family’s health had improved, the fact that her children had stayed in school, and so on. that her children could go to college,” the anthropologist told CNN.

If black and poor women are more likely to vote for Lula, Pinheiro-Machado believes, Bolsonaro’s campaign will gain support from two other demographic groups.

The first is made up of evangelicals who are as poor and many black women, but older, as a result of Bolsonaro’s moral agenda, particularly based on the fear of the decline of traditional gender roles.

The second group are upper-middle-class Brazilian women who, according to Pinheiro-Machado, want to pursue a more elite and conservative lifestyle based on neoliberal and religious values.

Investments in combating gender-based violence eroded

Although the outcome of the election will be important for all Brazilians (Latin America’s largest country is facing many crises, mainly economic and environmental), there is a lot at stake for women.

The first is the issue of femicide. A woman is a victim of femicide — defined as the killing of a girl or woman based on her sex or gender — every 7 hours, according to the 2022 Yearbook of Public Security in Brazil, which says that more than 1,340 women were killed. therefore in 2021.

Despite this tragic statistic, Bolsonaro’s government has recently reduced the budget for combating violence against women by 90%. They also cut and replaced a government program aimed at promoting gender equality and combating gender-based violence, which focuses on “strengthening the family” and “protecting life from conception.”

There were also cuts in investment in the Brazilian Women’s House (Casa da Mulher Brasileira, a public organization that provides services for women) and the Women’s Call Center (which keeps a record of complaints, provides guidance to victims of violence and information about the law). and campaigns).

To justify the changes, Bolsonaro’s government says that it is giving more resources to the area through budget plans. These plans, however, are not included in the official budget as resources specifically directed to this sector or to combat gender violence, as indicated in a report by the Institute of Socio-Economic Studies (INESC).

Liliane Machado, researcher in the field of feminist and gender studies and professor at the Faculty of Communication at the University of Brasilia, recalled that in 2020 Alves was called to the Senate to explain the restrictions and explained that the Brazilian Public Ministry is investigating. why were they made

“After all, violence against women has not decreased, on the contrary, an increase was recorded during the pandemic, and more and more political policies are needed to end this violence.” Machado told CNN.

The Brazilian philosopher Djamila Ribeiro, a famous researcher of black and decolonial feminism in Brazil, believes that the current government has not only set back the fight against gender violence, but has also implemented a fight against poverty and inequality, making cuts in social programs. economically empowered women.

“All these policies affect women, in the economy, health, housing, education, we don’t think about gender apart from these discussions,” she says.

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Quick Facts

The Inesc report supports Ribeiro’s opinion, showing that the policies for women – and the resources allocated to them – during the first three years of Bolsonaro’s government did not adequately address gender violence in the country.

Using data from the federal public budget released by the Brazilian Senate, Inesc also found that in 2022 Bolsonaro’s government still allocated the least amount of resources to fight violence against women.

Lula has pledged to change this in her government plan, which includes proposals to prioritize gender inequality, fighting hunger and unemployment and promoting pay equity.

The former president proposes the creation of the Ministry of Women, the reestablishment of a specific program to combat gender violence and the strengthening of the Femicide and Maria da Penha laws – which aim to protect women from domestic and family violence.

He also proposed the creation of a housing program aimed at women, especially single mothers, black and peripheral women, and the expansion of the country’s network of day care centers, senior centers and full-time schools.

Bolsonaro, on the other hand, has not revealed specific proposals for women in his next administration, but he has vowed to continue paying monthly Auxilio Brasil payments to low-income families and has spoken of the importance of integrating and investing in young people and women in the labor market. in entrepreneurship for various groups, including women. Any change for women is linked to those for the family, as the government’s plan says, “Bolsonaro’s government understands the family as the cell or foundation of society.”

However, Lula’s win does not automatically translate into a win for women.

The deeply entrenched far-right population and the fact that Bolsonaro’s party and its allies won 14 of the 27 Senate seats contested in 2022 (giving the current president’s party a plurality in the legislature) are likely to make Lula possible. In 2023, the administration is more difficult, questioning plans to invest in the environment; and fighting against women’s programs and other progressive agendas. It will also be limited by the state of the nation’s economy.

However, there is some optimism about the future of equity and gender policies in Brazil. The legislative elections, which took place in conjunction with the first round of presidential voting earlier this month, saw a record number of indigenous, black and trans women running for the National Congress.

“For the first time in the history of the country, we managed to elect people from groups that would have been unimaginable to elect a few years ago,” Ribeiro told CNN. “I look at the context from this perspective of hope… [there are] The people we know will be in power, fighting for us and doing the people’s bidding.”