HuffPost Her Stories: The Social Cost Of Motherhood In Brazil

Plus: 70 women on what it’s like to be cyberflashed.
Thais Lopes for HuffPost Brazil

Dear reader,

Brazil is facing a child care crisis – and, unsurprisingly, it’s working mothers who are bearing the brunt of it, according to a new investigative report from HuffPost Brazil that makes for troubling reading.

Just 32% of children under 3 in the country have access to day care, and the lack of state-funded support available to families means mothers are being forced to leave the workforce to take care of them.

The employment rate for women who are between the ages of 24 and 44 and have children under 1 is just 41%, according to a recent survey by think tank Fundação Getúlio Vargas. That’s compared to 92% of fathers in the same age bracket who do work.

Women who are able to access child care or to put their kids in school often pay a high price to do so.

Darleni Silva, for example, gets out of bed before 6 a.m. every day. The 34-year-old walks 3 miles along a dirt road, with her two young daughters in tow, to get to the girls’ school. Then she heads to work as a domestic cleaner. She’s a single mother and can barely afford enough food to feed her children.

Vanderléa Ferreira, 33, finally managed to secure a day care place for her 1-year-old son in February. But, in order to keep up with work and household chores, she relies on her older children to pick up the slack.

Adenilda Ramos da Silva, 37, has been trying since 2016 to secure a school place for her daughter, Jennifer, 21, who has cerebral palsy. She has also been waiting for a day care spot for Lorena, 2. And while there’s no movement, Silva is unable to work.

“The social cost of motherhood is not completely shown in numbers, but is seen in the experiences of these women who, in the absence of state support, carry out invisible and unpaid work,” HuffPost Brazil reporter Andréa Martinelli said. “In the context of this absence of public funds and, in many cases, without the support of the children’s fathers, it is women who pay the price.”

Andréa spoke to many women about the challenges they face as mothers in an unforgiving labor market. And while there’s no doubt that the global women’s rights landscape has evolved significantly in the past 50 years, it’s clear that accessible, affordable child care remains a core barrier to social change.

As the fight for equality continues to rage — from Alabama to South Korea — it feels all the more important to keep campaigning for the everyday injustices holding women back.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Her Stories edition from London.

As always, thanks for reading,


For more on women’s rights in Brazil, follow HuffPost’s @AndréaMartinelli. Readers of Portuguese can also follow HuffPost Brazil’s @marcella_fnd and @anabeatrizrr1.

For more than six months, HuffPost U.K. has been reporting on cyberflashing — sending unsolicited sexual images via AirDrop or other social platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Snapchat. Reporter Sophie Gallagher has put together interviews from 70 women who have been targeted. There’s currently no law protecting women from digital flashing; in fact, the British government declined to legislate against the practice. But it’s a growing problem in the U.K., and it feeds into a wider conversation around the need for retrospective legislation to protect society from online harms.


Lawmakers in 15 states have introduced so-called “fetal heartbeat” legislation this year. The goal of these bills is to ban abortion as soon as a doctor can detect cardiac activity in an embryo, which typically happens at around six weeks into a pregnancy. But according to Lydia O’Connor’s report for HuffPost U.S., doctors say that cutoff is completely arbitrary. They also say it’s based on the false premise that a “fetal heartbeat” — a phrase often included in the bills’ titles — even exists at that stage of pregnancy. Yet another reason to continue to proclaim loudly: Our bodies, our choice.

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