Brasilien: Benedita da Silva

Peace is individual and it is inside of each one of us.

— Benedita da Silva

Benedita da Silva (1942) began her political career in the 1980s with the foundation and presidency of the Association of Women from Chapéu Mangueira, a slum in Rio, where she was born and lived for 57 years. She was elected town councilor once and federal deputy twice. She was the first woman to be elected for the senate (1994) and the first woman to govern the state of Rio. She occupied the Ministry of Social Assistance for one year.

Daughter of a laundress and of a peasant, raised with 14 siblings, Benedita da Silva was the only one in her family to obtain a university degree. Her mother was a midwife in the community, and she was the inspiration for Benedita's work as nursing assistant. She was able to conclude a course on social service in 1982, the same year she was elected for her first political term as a town councilor. Her trajectory is marked by sexual abuse, which she suffered in her childhood; by the loss of a son, who died of starvation; and by the desire to have a different life. Several times, Benedita had to collect left-over food from the trash to feed her family. Until she began her political mobilization, she was always a quiet woman. “Just like many other thousands of Afro-Brazilian women who live oppressed by poverty and by the lack of an active voice in society.” Her community work privileged Afro-Brazilian women who did not have the right to vote in community meetings. Benedita founded and became president of the Association of Women from Chapéu Mangueira, an organization that established a pioneer dialogue between women from the slum and middle-class feminist institutions. Benedita's mother ironed clothes for a living and was hired by the Kubitschek family when Juscelino Kubitschek was running for president in the 1950s. Benedita was a girl who delivered the clothes to the house of the Kubitschek family. Elected for her first term as a federal deputy in 1986, she occupied the Deputies' Chamber along with Marcia Kubitschek, daughter of Juscelino. Married, mother of two and grandmother of four, her political career is marked by the defense of women's and Afro-Brazilian's causes. Today she dedicates herself fulltime to the Benedita da Silva Foundation that assists the poor and Afro-Brazilians.

Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT)