Brazil makes headlines all over the world today due to the coronavirus outbreak and the constant political crises. But some key information never reaches the headlines. From a racial perspective, Brazil is one of the most inequitable countries in the world. Though Afro-Brazilians make up 55.8 per cent of the population, they are still considered a ‘minority’ and we have carried the burden of centuries of structural racism which has resulted in huge social inequalities.
For example, the education and employment outcomes of low-income women and youth have been neglected. No attention has been paid to improving the employment prospects of low-income workers in the informal sector, nor has attention been paid to training or incentivising black entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. Their working conditions and the provision of social security has also been neglected. Low-income communities have limited access to internet, digital solutions and quality healthcare. There have been few effective initiatives to improve the employment prospects of prisoners, addicts and homeless people. This neglect includes a lack of investment in social initiatives to promote rights and racial justice. Such was the scenario when Baoba Fund was created in 2011.
Our mission is to promote racial equity for the black population of Brazil and to be a reference point for social justice funds combatting racism in Brazil. We were set up as part of the Kellogg Foundation’s Brazilian exit strategy. They committed up to $25 million to match-fund our building of an endowment. Up to 2019, we had raised $10.3 million. We have committed $4.5 million to support projects over the next five years and we need to raise an additional $10.2 million. Our work focuses on four areas of investment crucial to promote racial equity in Brazil: life with dignity (which includes health promotion, violence prevention, maroons community rights among others), education, economic development, communication and memory.
From 2014 to 2019, Baobá invested approximately R$10.2 million (almost $2 million), and has affected more than 100,000 lives across the country. Funds for Social Justice have strong commitment to social movements and make social investments to promote their strategies. An example is our programme to accelerate Afro-Brazilian women’s leadership skills, an initiative which demonstrates that the tragedy of councilwoman Marielle Franco will not stop the attempts of black women and the black population generally to disrupt the current system. With the Open Society Foundations, Ibirabitanga Institute, Ford Foundation and Kellogg Foundation, we mobilised $3 million to invest in black women leadership.
This year, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, initiatives supported by Baoba were implemented in vulnerable communities focused on homeless people, migrants and refugees, indigenous and maroons communities, elderly people including non-Afro-Brazilians, and others who live in favelas. Baobá donated R$905,000 to initiatives that benefited, directly or indirectly, 1,200 people and 18,000 families. But the pandemic is showing up more than the socio-economic and racial inequalities. It is showing that all society loses by inequality. It loses lives, it loses talent, it loses the diversity that can drive the country’s social and economic development. There is a long list of inequalities and to change that, we need to be intentional and invest to promote an inclusive, diverse and equitable society. We need more resources, we need to support community and economic resilience.
Maybe the pandemic can help change the perspective of donors, because the huge challenge in Brazil is to have more organisations actively investing in structural changes in our society.
We need to find ways to help the black population find opportunities to live with dignity, to have access to high quality education, to be included in economic development and to have black history told from their perspective. As with other social justice funds, we have strong relations with, and commitment to, social movements and grassroots initiatives and are committed to investing in capacity building for their institutional development.
We were delighted to renew our agreement with the Kellogg Foundation in 2018, under which for each R$1 raised locally, the Kellogg Foundation will contribute R$3 and for each R$1 in international donation, R$2. These new terms will allow us to undertake bolder actions in the next years, making greater investments in actions to strengthen both our institution and our programming. But we need more support. Black lives matter for everybody. If social justice and equity are at the heart of philanthropy, we need more allies working with funders and social movements to build another world where lives are lived with justice and dignity. Why not start now? Let’s make an investment to promote racial equity. Join us in order to promote a better world.
Selma Moreira is Executive Director Baoba – Fund For Racial Equity.
For more on philanthropy for racial justice in Brazil, read Selma’s article in Alliance magazine’s social movements issue.