UNICEF Brazil National Ambassador Daniela Mercury:
“Everyone for Education!” - Prêmio Itaú-UNICEF Brazil Award Ceremony 2007

“It is so wonderful to see all of the NGO finalists here tonight, representing regions from all over Brazil”, said UNICEF Brazil National Ambassador and Latin American Grammy Award winning singer Daniela Mercury, during her address at the recent Prêmio Itaú-UNICEF Brazil award ceremony in São Paulo. “The energy, optimism and initiative of your outstanding work is helping to mobilize all of Brazil - governments, civil society, private sector businesses and communities - to guarantee the right of each and every child and adolescent in Brazil to education!” Over the past 12 years, Mercury has worked tirelessly with UNICEF to promote the rights of children, adolescents and women throughout Brazil. 

The Prêmio Itaú-UNICEF award is a result of the successful cooperation in the area of education between UNICEF Brazil, Fundação Itaú (part of Banco Itaú, one of the world’s largest private banks), and the NGO, Cenpec. Every 2 years, the ceremony honors Brazilian NGOs working to ensure each child’s right to quality education in Brazil, particularly children living in vulnerable socio-economic conditions. In 2007, 1,574 projects were submitted for consideration, compared with 406 projects in 1995, the first year of the awards.

“Over the past 12 years, this initiative has had a significant and positive impact on the lives of millions of Brazilian girls and boys”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Representative in Brazil during her address at the ceremony. “To guarantee the right of Brazilian children to education, each and every child has to have their access to quality education assured, and their education must also be integrated, contextualized and individualized.”

This year, 33 semi-finalist projects representing 9 regions of the country received Brazilian Reais $8,000 each from Fundação Itaú, and a computer and a printer to help them improve project efficiency. Of these, 4 projects (Criança Capoeira Esporte e Cultura; Estação do Conhecimentos; Olho Vivo; Pró-Arte) won the National Award in their specific budget category, receiving Brazilian Reais $70,000 each. The overall National Grand Prize winner, ‘Escola e Comunidade: Um Diálogo Necessário’, was awarded Brazilian Reais $100,000. All monies awarded are invested back directly into the projects. The Salvador, Bahia-based project ‘Escola e Comunidade’ promotes learning experiences that enhance personal awareness and critical development skills through art, education and citizenship activities that, with community participation, help to improve the participation in social life of the children and adolescents participating in the project.     

The Prêmio Itaú-UNICEF award not only provides crucial funding for winning projects, but also serves to develop best practices in project design and implementation, creating a positive social protection and education network. It also mobilizes various sectors of society to support quality public education, calling “Everyone for Education!” in Brazilian society. The 2007 edition of the award also includes an important innovation: the adoption of key policy, technical, financial, education and social result indicators that allow for a detailed mapping of the NGOs and their projects. This has a positive impact on the quality and effectiveness of education throughout Brazil - particularly important in a country in which 97.6% of children aged 7-14 go to school, but where some 660,000 children remain out of school - the majority being afro-descendant children living in the north and north-east regions of Brazil.

While access to education is high in Brazil, only 53 of every 100 children enrolled at the elementary level actually conclude their schooling; of those in school, more than 300,000 children between the ages of 10-11 years (the fourth grade age), are not able to read and write. To help transform this situation, the award is now a national reference for improving Brazilian education policies, and is part of a broader social mobilization strategy to guarantee children’s rights through the implementation of efficient public policies for education.

The alliance between Fundação Itaú, Cenpec and UNICEF Brazil was established in 1995 to improve the lives of Brazilian children and young people by ensuring their right to quality education. Crucial to the success of the partnership has been the involvement of the Center of Studies & Research in Education (Cenpec), a Brazilian NGO dedicated to developing methodologies, materials for training education professionals and conducting studies and evaluations on education issues. Others who have joined the alliance include the Brazilian organizations UNDIME, Congemas, Rede ANDI, Canal Futura and Consed.

In 1994, Banco Itaú and UNICEF Brazil launched an investment and capitalization plan managed by Banco Itaú, in which part of the profit obtained through individual investors is converted into monthly contributions to UNICEF Brazil over 5 years. Since 1994, the investment plan has raised over US$16 million for education projects in Brazil, helping to ensure that increasing numbers of children and adolescents benefit from higher quality education and pedagogical practices, not only within the traditional learning environment, but also in other spaces used for learning and socialization. Banco Itaú is a leading practitioner of corporate social responsibility in Latin America.