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UNICEF office in Brazil launches campaign on the impact of racism on children

© UNICEF Brazil/2010/Andressa Anholete
Children, adolescents, representatives of indigenous and afrodescendant movements and religious leaders participated in the campaign launching.

Brasilia, December 2010 - UNICEF launched a national campaign on the impact of racism on children with the slogan “For a Childhood free from racism – Valuing differences in children is nurturing equality.” The campaign will mobilize society around the need to ensure equal treatment and opportunities to each Brazilian boy and girl, regardless of the colour of their skin.


The event is part of the celebrations of UNICEF's 60th anniversary in Brazil and relied on the participation of its Representative in the Country, Marie-Pierre Poirier, of the Secretary for Continued Education of the Ministry of Education (MEC), André Lázaro, of the National Secretary for the Promotion of the Rights of Children and Adolescents (SPDCA/SDH), Carmen Oliveira, and of the Secretary for Affirmative-Action Policies of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality (SEPPIR), Martius Antônio Alves das Chagas. The campaign launch also brought together representatives of indigenous and afrobrazilian movements and students of public schools of the Federal District and included a multireligious celebration in support of the campaign. This was the opportunity for UNICEF to strength its partnership with religious leaders for the cause of children, a contribution to the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. This will be continued through 2011, during the International Year for People of African Descent.


According to UNICEF, ethnic-racial discrimination in Brazil today is reflected in official national data and indicators. To have an idea of the situation, of the 530,000 children aged between 7 and 14 that are not attending school, 330,000 are afrodescendant children (62%). The infant mortality rate (up to the age of one) among indigenous children, for example, is alarming. It amounts to 41.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the national rate is 19 deaths per 1,000 live births.


“An indigenous child is twice less likely to reach the age of one than a Caucasian child. Can society accept this fact?”, asked Marie-Pierre Poirier as she recalled that Brazil made spectacular progress in ensuring the rights of children and adolescents in recent years, but not equally for all of its children.


Inequality between afrobrazilian and white people born in Brazil becomes even clearer when one considers urban violence rates. According to UNICEF, data for the Adolescent Homicide Index (IHA) indicates that afrobrazilian adolescents are 2.6 times more likely to be killed than white adolescents in the same age bracket.


“The alarming data presented here today shows that we have a huge commitment to make and a difficult challenge to address. Let us hope that we are not just a nation recognized for its achievements in terms of economic development, but also one recognized for reverting these indicators,” the National Sub-secretary for the Rights of Children and Adolescents, Carmen Oliveira, said.


According to the Secretary for Affirmative-Action Policies, Martius Antônio Chagas, the actions undertaken by the Government over the past 7 years removed more than 30 million Brazilians from poverty and included them in the so-called new middle class, which according to him is young and afrobrazilian. “Racism is a social determinant, as it determines where people live and their health status. For this reason, this is an extremely important campaign, because it is focused on children and adolescents - an area in which we face many difficulties.”


According to the Secretary for Continued Education of the Ministry of Education, André Lázaro, the biggest problem as far as racism in Brazil is concerned, lies in fact that Brazilians don't see themselves as prejudiced, making it difficult to sensitize them around the issue. For UNICEF, the purpose of the campaign is to generate ideas and reflections, and lead to the engagement of each Brazilian in its cause.


The event was also attended by afrodescendants and indigenous adolescents, who had an opportunity to report their experiences and perceptions in relation to racial inequalities. Gabrielle dos Santos Oliveira, 16, from the semi-arid region of Bahia state, spoke a little about her experience: “I am black and I have experienced this prejudice. I know how it affects people psychologically, making them feel inferior in relation to other people, which is not right nor true.”


Fernando Neto, a 16-year-old indigenous adolescent from the Pitaguary community, located in the state of Espírito Santo, spoke about the importance of protecting and respecting the traditions of indigenous peoples. “(Racism) is not only calling a person black. Racism is also putting an end to the traditions of people,” explains Fernando.


For more information on the campaign, kindly visit http://www.infanciasemracismo.org.br


For more information

Alexandre Amorin, aamorin@unicef.org, UNICEF Brazil

Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean





UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.



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