Building bridges to gender equality with TED Translator Raissa Mendes

Raissa Mendes TED
Photo courtesy of Raissa Mendes.

Earlier this month, we profiled the TED Translators who will attend TEDWomen 2017, which runs November 1-3 in New Orleans. To get to know these fine folks a bit better and tap into what this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges, means to them, we posed the following questions to the translators:

What’s the most pressing issue, either on a global or local scale, that comes to mind for you when you think of this year’s TEDWomen theme, Bridges? What bridge-building effort(s) do you believe ought to address this issue?

In her response below, Brazilian Portuguese TED Translator Raissa Mendes addresses the epidemic of violence against women in Brazil, as well as the bridges required to stop the brutality and reach equality.


When you consider the social status of women in Brazil, what comes to mind? More often than not, it seems, we assume they’re free to travel, work, study, dress, express themselves as they wish—especially since Brazil is one of the world’s largest democracies. But the facts on the ground here blatantly contradict this assumption. In terms of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world for women, Brazil ranks fifth; in fact, according to the UN, a woman here is killed by violence every two hours. All of which is to say that there’s a literal life-and-death necessity in Brazil to build bridges that will quickly lead to a sea change in Brazilian society’s (particularly its men’s) treatment of women.

Sadly, violence toward women here has been pervasive for decades, despite efforts by government and law enforcement to counter and curb the crisis. What’s worse, the victimization appears to be growing more widespread. A big part of Brazil’s failure to adequately address its gender-violence epidemic stems from insufficient legislation and poor police enforcement of these laws. As Human Rights Watch reported:

Passage of the Maria da Penha law in 2006 was a milestone, establishing an array of measures to guarantee women’s rights, prevent violence, and ensure justice in the event of violence. One of the law’s main accomplishments was the creation of protective orders to provide a buffer by requiring a woman’s alleged abuser to stay away from her, though getting such an order and making sure it’s enforced remains more difficult than it should be.

Despite this progress, more than 4,700 women were killed in Brazil in 2013—the last year for which there is data—half of them by a relative, partner, or former partner. Many more suffered homicide attempts, rape, or beatings.

But the moral imperative to more aggressively combat violence against women in Brazil must also be adopted and enacted by the country’s educational systems and families—the social actors largely responsible for teaching children and young adults acceptable ways to interact with and treat other people. Even a brief look at Brazil’s history of violence toward women reveals that the problem has been passed from generation to generation like a lethal disease, with boys and young men observing, emulating and internalizing their fathers’, brothers’, friends’ behaviors. It’s beyond urgent, therefore, that teachers and parents in Brazil do much more to impart to and instill in younger generations the fundamental truth that women and men are equals, and that women ought to be regarded and treated as such. Now more than ever, we Brazilians must build unassailable bridges between our women and men that lead to lasting equality for both.

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