In Brazil, almost 8.5 million women have left the job market since the inception of covid-19. For those who raise their children alone, the setbacks were even more profound
In 2020, Latin American women suffered a historic setback in financial and professional terms because of the global pandemic of covid-19. In Brazil, the eighth most unequal country in the world, the impacts were still profound: almost 8.5 million women left the labor market in the third quarter, and their participation dropped to 45.8%, the lowest level in three decades. , according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Within this female universe, solo mothers, who number more than 11.5 million in Brazil, have not only faced more risks and financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, but also suffer a mental overload and a greater accumulation of tasks due to the closure of schools and daycare centers.
Natália Cardoso, 20, who lives in Osasco, in Greater São Paulo, and Carlla Bianca Souza, 21, who lives in São Luís (MA), are two examples of single mothers who did not receive any help the government during the pandemic. Cardoso had to leave his job after exhausting his maternity leave, as his workday prevented his mother, who lives next door, sharing with her the care of her daughter. The only job she got after she was fired was a temporary job in a candidate for councilor's campaign in November. In addition to having the help of his mother, who also supports another 16-year-old daughter, Cardoso received a basic basket a network of organic producers who, during the pandemic, have been donating fortnightly to single mothers in Osasco.
Souza, in turn, lives with his parents and, in addition to taking care of his daughter Ísis, 3, also helps to raise two younger sisters while completing her studies at law school. In addition, she runs a clothing store over the internet. “I had an anxiety and depression crisis, because you feel very pressured, very exhausted and still have to do your own thing. During the pandemic I felt very suffocated ”, she says.
In April last year, the federal government approved a minimum emergency income of 600 reais per month for self-employed and unemployed workers during the pandemic, twice as much in the case of single mothers, but thousands of women had their requests rejected. Already in 2021, and after several warnings about the worsening financial difficulties with the end of emergency aid, Congress approved a new wave of payments, reduced, which still depends on the publication of a provisional measure by the Executive to define rules, terms and amounts, which will be 150 to 375 reais per month.
According to recent data a report by the NGOs Gender and Number and the Sempreviva Feminist Organization (SOF), 50% of Brazilian women started caring for someone else during the pandemic. Almost 40% of respondents in the survey said that social isolation has jeopardized their livelihood; of these women, 55% were black, generally the most affected.
Sofia Benjamin, 30, a fashion stylist and independent artist, lives with her daughter, Céu, 4, in Rio de Janeiro, a city that is one of the epicenters of the pandemic in Brazil. one day to the next, the two found themselves completely locked in their apartment. As an autonomous, their work has decreased and, in order to count on the support of their mother, part of the risk group and their only support network, the two spent eight months without contact with the outside world.
“While the adults pretend that nothing is happening and go on with their lives, how is the mental health of the children and, consequently, of their caregivers during this pandemic?”, Questioned Benjamim in December, when thousands of Brazilians left social isolation to celebrate their lives. New Year parties. The country already counts more than 282,000 deaths the coronavirus, and the numbers continue to increase daily. Most public and private schools have resumed face-to-face classes since the beginning of February, but many are not mandatory and face-to-face students are rotated each week.
In Brazil, there are more than 11 million women who are single mothers and, although their realities are diverse and crossed by different regional and class issues, they are similar in some aspects. In Salvador, Isis Abena, 35, and her daughter Ainá, 3, also lived in a small apartment that during the pandemic seemed to become even smaller, affecting the emotional and mental state of the two during the periods of confinement.
Amid the quarantine, they decided to move to a village house, , together with other families who already lived there, were able to huddle together. Quilombos are traditional communities of Afro-descendants they live in groups and in contact with ancestry as an act of resistance. “We, she and I [Ainá], continue to build and search for a community that welcomes us in this diaspora to minimize the consequences of colonialism and the fragmentation of black families,” says Abena. For her and her daughter, living with other families was a process of transformation and healing.
Verônica da Costa, 31 years old and also Rio de Janeiro, goes through similar anxieties with her son Théo, 6. “It is not poetic to keep a child alive alone in this city. The network, which was already small, runs out even more in this 'save whoever can' time. Cooking, tidying, washing, working, playing, breathing ... Little time to be myself ”, she complains, who is also self-employed and started working home, making natural products such as soaps and self-care kits based on medicinal plants. During the pandemic, she formed a group with two other single mothers, also independent artists, to support each other and look for that time and space that, for them, became so scarce.
One year after the outbreak of the pandemic and the beginning of the quarantine, the situation in Brazil remains serious. With the increase in the number of cases across the country and the slow progress of vaccination, cities and states have again stepped back in easing confinements and reopening plans, closing again the shops and services that they had already opened to the public. For most mothers, especially for those who are the only ones in charge of the home, the difficulties related to care and overload of tasks persist, deepened by the crisis, without attention or solution. “The truth is that until men feel the impact of having children at home, [the well-being of mothers and children] will not be a priority for the Government. It is not that they are doing bad policies, (...) they are not doing it. They don't think about it, ”reflects Benjamin.
All the stories documented in the Solo project, carried out with support the National Geographic Society's Covid-19 Emergency Fund, can be viewed on the project's website and social networks.