Brazil 2014
Source: Annual Report 2014

The Brazil strategy of the Bernard van Leer Foundation focuses on approximately half a million children in three specific geographic areas. The overall theme is to ensure that all children in Brazil have equal opportunities and are protected, including those growing up in favelas and the Amazon. Our two goals in Brazil are:

Quality home visiting programmes for rural children under 3 years of age living in the state of the Amazonas.

Amazonas has a population of 3.3 million people, of whom 136,000 are under 3. 74,000 of these children live outside of the capital Manaus, and are spread across a physical area larger than Peru. They fare substantially worse than the national average on most social indicators: 40% do not have access to piped water; 72% of pregnant women have less than 6 ante-natal visits from healthcare professionals; one in four do not have birth registration; 30% of 4 to 6 years old do not go to pre-school; and 95% of 0 to 3 year olds do not go to nursery school.

Zero violence in the lives of young children growing up in favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Recife and São Paulo.

Rio de Janeiro is the city with the largest number of homicides per year in Brazil (2,333 in 2010). Recife is the city with the highest per capita homicide rate in Brazil (90/100,000). Most of the violence occurs in the 1,000 favelas, which are home to around 227,000 children 0 to 8 in Rio, and 97,000 in Recife. In addition, these children also experience high levels of violence within their homes. The combination of these two types of violence (in the community and in the home) has extraordinary impacts on children’s brain development, learning potential, health and future adult behaviour.

Highlights from 2014

  • President of Brazil presented RNPI, an alliance of early childhood advocates set up with Foundation support, with an award for championing human rights.

    A Brazilian platform for early childhood advocacy leads to policy and investment wins – and Brazil’s national human rights award

    ‘Fighting inequality starts with early childhood.’ So began the remarks of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on presenting the Rede Nacional Primeira Infância (RNPI, National Alliance for Early Childhood) with the country’s 2014 Human Rights Award in the category of children and adolescents. The RNPI was set up, with funding and advisory support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, in 2007.

    Even before then, Brazil had strong children’s rights legislation thanks to the street children’s movements of the 1990s. By the mid-2000s, there were national programmes for income support, antenatal care and nutrition – but the developmental importance of early childhood had not been recognised, despite there being many examples of good practice in early childhood education around the country.

    Foundation partner Promundo created the RNPI as a platform for bringing together early childhood practitioners and advocates to lobby for greater political will, accountability and investment in early childhood. From 26 members, the RNPI has now grown to include more than 160 ngos, universities, UN agencies and government representatives. Daniella Araújo of Promundo says: ‘The network’s strength comes from a group of really strong organisations all with the same goal – passing policies and implementing actions to fulfil the rights of children.’

    To orient its work, in 2011 the RNPI launched its National Plan for Early Childhood, which consists of 13 long-term objectives to invest in early childhood. According to Luzia Laffite, coordinator of the executive secretariat of the RNPI, the Plan allows different states and cities to set policies and implement actions in a decentralised way.

    Policy actions that the RNPI has influenced to date include a national law banning the use of physical and psychological punishment against children (2014), the development of a national plan for early childhood development and the three-year, eur 2.3 billion Brasil Carinhoso (Loving Brazil) policy initiative to improve health, nutrition and learning outcomes for impoverished children under 6 across Brazil (2012).

    RNPI BrazilIn 2014, the RNPI organised a national debate and several state and city workshops to discuss and raise awareness of a major federal law for early childhood development, guaranteeing the rights of children under 6 with respect to education, health and social welfare. The law is now being negotiated. President Dilma Rousseff also sent a letter to the RNPI committing to the creation of a ‘children’s budget’ (Criança Orçamento) from the general federal budget for the development of children under 6. According to Luzia Laffite, the children’s budget should make it easier for civil society to monitor government action on early childhood.

    Says Luzia: ‘We are now trying to organise a study to analyse the situation of young children, and provide solid information for the implementation of the budget.’

  • Child abuse, both physical and psychological, has been legally banned thanks to the efforts of a committed group of parliamentarians with support from the Foundation.
  • A smartphone app to measure children’s sense of safety, launched by Foundation partner Instituto Igarapé, aroused interest from several international agencies.

Programme strategy

See the summary of our Brazil strategy (pdf) for an outline of how we are approaching these two goals (also available to download are two-page handouts in English or Spanish).


Do you have comments on our goals in Brazil? Please contact our Programme Officer for Brazil, Leonardo Yánez:

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