Brasilien: Zilda Arns Neumann

When I believe in something that could benefit humanity, I go to the end.

— Zilda Arns Neumann

Zilda Arns Neumann (born 1943) is a pediatric and sanitary doctor. Founder and national coordinator of Pastoral of the Child, an ecumenical organism of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (BNCB). She is also the president of the Intersectorial Commission of Indigenous Health. Recently, she took on the coordination of the elderly. Mother of five children, she is a collector of national and international prizes, granted in recognition to her work in Pastoral of the Child.

Zilda Arns Neumann was born in a small community in the state of Santa Catarina, in the South of Brazil. Forquilinha was so small that everyone knew each other. It was in her childhood that Zilda Arns had the inspiration for her future: “My mom studied homemade medicine in German books. She saw people and knew who needed to go to the hospital and who could be treated at home.” Another characteristic of the family was discipline. “We had to wake up very early to milk the cow.” According to her, this discipline was providential: “I have no difficulties waking up very early and facing 15 hours of work.” In Zilda's day there is always work to be done. She coordinates a true factory of solidary information. Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral of the Child), created in 1983, is present in 36,258 communities, spread throughout more than 3757 Brazilian cities. The basis of work is the volunteer. This philosophy is not to give the bread, but to multiply the information. Information can be the difference between life and death, to children between one day and six years old. Pregnant and poor mothers are oriented in matters of nutrition, nursing, food preparation, the correct use of drinking water, the preparation of homemade saline solution, basic hygiene. To monitor the progress, there is the Weighing Day – also known as the Day of the Celebration of Life. Weekly, the children are weighed while mothers and grandmothers exchange information and knowledge. In more than 20 years of working with the Pastoral, Zilda affirms that “the women are very creative and they have tremendous force.” Zilda is a catholic woman. She believes that hope, along with solidarity, is the antidote against poverty. “God did not create injustices. They were created by humanity.” Conclusion: society needs to solve its inequities.

Pastoral da Criança (Pastoral of the Child)