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One seat, several representatives? A political idea that is gaining ground in Brazil

The main problem is that political parties recruit women to run for office in order to meet the quota, but fund their campaigns at far lower rates than men running for the same positions. With limited financial support, women’s chances of winning are slim.

The results speak for themselves: for a population of 212.6 million, only 15% of federal representatives and 12.4% of senators are women and 900 of the country’s 5,568 cities did not elect only one woman on the city council in 2020. In comparison, in the United States, which has a population of 329.5 million, women hold 27% of the seats in Congress. That’s a 50% increase from ten years ago, according to an analysis of the Pew Research Center.

In Brazil, women are much better represented in political collectives, according to a study of the 2020 municipal elections of which Almeida is the co-author. White women represent 36% of elected members of political collectives, while they represent less than 10% of all elected municipal councillors. For black women, the difference is even more marked: 27% representation against barely 1%.


Usually, Nunes goes alone to Buracanã, but this time she is accompanied by two other members of Bancada Feminista : Silvia Ferraro, professor of history and spokesperson for the group, and Natália Chaves, activist fighting for the rights of black people and for the protection of the environment. The other two members of the group are Carolina Iara, who focuses on health and LGBTQIA+ and black communities, and Dafne Sena, a labor rights and environmental lawyer and activist.

As the three women arrive at the community’s shared kitchen for lunch, Ferraro stops to chat with Fabiana Batista da Silva, a resident who is concerned that one of her children has not received the tablet he needed to follow distance learning during the pandemic. As a teacher in a public school, Ferraro knows how the education system works and how to get the resources the boy needs.

Silva confides that she only discovered the Bancada Feminista only after the election, but as a single mother with seven children, she would have liked to vote for them.

“It’s the first time I’ve felt supported,” she says. “They have empathy, they are human. They make you feel important. That’s all we ever wanted here. »

For experts who observe the rise of political collectives in Brazil, it is this ability to connect with voters, especially those who are often forgotten or marginalized, that has led to their success.

“For some time now, political parties have had few links with the population,” explains Soraia Marcelino Vieira, a political scientist at the Federal University Fluminense. “Citizens are generally unhappy, they are discouraged, they don’t believe in the political system, especially when it comes to political parties. »

“With these political collectives, there is a new sense of mobilization. People feel like they have a chance, that they are finally being given an option in politics, apart from the usual individual candidates. »

But these collectives come with complications that can be prohibitive. They are neither legally recognized nor regulated (a bill to rectify this problem has been pending since 2017). If the spokesperson decides to step down, the whole collective loses its place in government, which happened to a group in the city of Belo Horizonte just three months after being elected in 2020.

And if the spokesperson or the rest of the group decides to expel a member, as happened with a collective of representatives from the State of São Paulo, that person has no recourse, nor do those and those who had voted for the group as a whole.

The members of Bancada Feminista claim that disagreements and internal conflicts have never been a problem for them, because their group was not formed by their party, the left-wing Socialism and Freedom Party: they have all known each other for years. They don’t always agree, but they know how to make a decision that best represents them and, above all, that represents their constituents, they add.

At the very least, collective membership can be fluid. When one of the members of the Mandato Coletivo Permacultural decided to accept another mayoral position, the other three opened the fourth position to the public. They interviewed interested people and rotated the headquarters every three months. When the original member returned, they adapted again: they opened a fifth seat, which rotates among people who have particular expertise or interest in the area of ​​interest of the collective during the quarter in question.

Bancada Feminista also had to be flexible. Nunes and Iara recently left the collective: they joined two other black women to form a new version of the collective, this time at the state level, so they can run for office in this year’s elections which will take place in October. As neither of them was the spokesperson for the original collective, it was able to keep its seat on the municipal council.

The collective nevertheless pursued its mission: to serve marginalized people. Recently, a bill drafted by Bancada Feminista aimed at creating a municipal program to combat obstetrical violence was approved at first reading. As it currently heads towards the second vote, the collective is creating a file that it will present to the Municipal Health Secretariat, in which will be gathered stories of people who have been victims of obstetrical violence in the city .

After lunch in Buracanã’s shared kitchen, some women stay and gather to listen to what their co-counselors have to say. Ferraro talks about the importance of women in communities like theirs, where they represent the majority of residents and are the ones who organize community life.

Chaves then takes the floor, and compares the collective nature of the action of Bancada Feminista to that of Buracanã, where residents take care of each other’s children, make sure there is enough food for everyone and help newcomers build houses with sticks and plastic sheeting .

“We are not superheroines,” she says. “But we know we can accomplish things if we work together. »


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