Government income assistance program Bolsa Família completes 10 years and now helps its second generation

Maria Dalva Ferreira (right), 53, has 10 children and says that without the program her life would be much more difficult. Her daughter Maria Francisca, 17, is the mother of two children and also has also enrolled in the program
Maria Dalva Ferreira (right), 53, has 10 children and says that without the program her life would be much more difficult. Her daughter Maria Francisca, 17, is the mother of two children and also has also enrolled in the program

Note from BW of Brazil: Over the last year or so much has been written about Brazil’s surge onto the world stage, its rise to claim the sixth largest economy in the world which was no doubt a huge factor in the country being chosen to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. But within these huge success stories, there are hundreds and thousands of little stories that have contributed to this meteoric rise. Part of the rise of Brazil’s economy can be attributed to the ability of more of its 200 million citizens to become more active in the economy which has led to a larger Afro-Brazilian middle class, the lifting of 23 million people out of poverty just since 2003 and the entrance of nearly 40 million Brazilians into the middle class since Lula da Silva began his first term as the nation’s president. The federal government’s Bolsa Família income distribution program also played a huge part in these numbers. Read below just a few of the families that benefitted from this program.

by Demétrio Weber

It’s the government’s largest income assistance program and has 50 million beneficiaries

Maria Dalva Ferreira (right), 53, has 10 children and says that without the program her life would be much more difficult. Her daughter Maria Francisca, 17, is the mother of two children and also has also enrolled in the program

Close to completing its first decade, the Bolsa Família program is already reaching the second generation of beneficiaries: they are the grandchildren of the most comprehensive cash transfer program in the country. The children who grew up while their parents received government aid had their children and formed their own families, also receiving a new benefit. Created in October 2003, the program also maintains in the list of beneficiaries 45% of families who were registered soon after its beginning. 522,458 benefits paid monthly for almost ten years, according to the Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome (Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger).

It’s not possible to say if the remaining 55% who were on the original list of recipients once left from the program or returned later, and the reasons for it. They may have to leave the Bolsa Família because they had an increase of income from other sources, because they were expelled for not fulfilling conditions of the program or simply were no longer eligible to benefit because, for example, a child turned 18.

In recent weeks, Globo located and interviewed participating families since the inception of the program in three states: Bahia, Maranhão, both in northeast Brazil, and Goiás, in the central region of the country near the nation’s capital. In Campo Formoso (Bahia), 400 kilometers (249 miles) from the capital city if Salvador, Josias Mason Henrique de Oliveira and his wife, maid Maria Daura Santos Bonfim, who have received help even before the Bolsa Família: first with Auxílio-Gás (1) and then with Bolsa Escola (1), launched in 2001 and merged into the creation of the Bolsa Família.

Left to right: Bahia, Maranhão and Goiás (white dot is nation's capital of Brasília)
Left to right: Bahia, Maranhão and Goiás (white dot is nation’s capital of Brasília)

Josiah, 61, self-employed without a carteira assinada (official work contract) (2), charges up to R$60 (US$30) per day. He is the cardholder and earns benefits of R$70 (US$35) per month. The couple’s children are adults. The eldest, Silvana Santos Bonfim de Oliveira is 25 years old, has three children and is also a recipient: she receives R$282 (US$141).

In the last 25 days, the Globo witnessed the moment Silvana came to her parents’ home after withdrawing her benefit and that of her father. She brought three umbrellas that she bought for the children (R$8.50 each or US$4.25), plus a sweater (R$20 or US$10) for the youngest, Alice, age 4. After a long drought, rain returned to the city.

Silvana has already worked as a maid in various homes and in a restaurant where her mother washed dishes. She earned R$50 (US$25) per week, without a carteira assinada (2). Besides the Bolsa Família, which goes towards the rent, she receives another R$80 (US$40) to watch her neighbor’s daughters and another R$100 (US$50) from her ex-husband’s pension. Her current husband, a bricklayer’s assistant, pays for other expenses.

Josias’s says that she left school at 17, when her first child was born. She later went back and finished high school last year, with a group of young people and adults. She carries a certificate of completion in her purse hoping to get a job and says that she would like to do a computer technician course:

“Without the Bolsa Família, I would have to work as a maid,” says Silvana, stating that wages in the city are around R$300 (US$150) (per month).

Benefit serves 50 million people

The Bolsa Família program currently serves 13.8 million households or 50 million people, with estimated spending of R$24.9 (US$12.45) billion this year. The average value of transfers is R$149.70 (US$75). It’s the most visible government social program. Studies indicate that it contributed to the reduction of inequality and extreme poverty relief in the past decade. Between 16% and 21% of the fall in inequality are attributed to the Bolsa Família program, which was also one of the main assets of Lula and Dilma in their presidential campaigns.

Among experts, there are those who criticize it for being ineffective in the emancipation of their beneficiaries that would have difficulty entering the labor market and stop relying program. Another group, however, highlights the important role of the Bolsa Família in alleviating poverty in extremely vulnerable families, precisely those least able to get formal employment, ensuring that children have at least minimal access to health services and education.

This is the case, for example, of the nursing technician Clarice Batista da Silva, 49. She is a widow and earns R$70 (US$35) monthly from the program. Clarice’s two sons took different paths: the eldest, Alex Sandro, is 28 years old, did not finish elementary school is in jail, according to his mother, for attempted murder. Alex Sandro joined the Bolsa Família before going to jail. The person who receives the money (R$102 or US$51 per month), is his wife, Juliete dos Santos Dias, 22. The couple has a 5-year old son.

“If he was the son of someone wealthy, he would already be out (of jail). The lawyer charged R$ 5,000 (US$2,500). I don’t have that (kind of) money. Am I going to sell my house and live under a bridge? It’s in God’s hands,” says Clarice.

Her daughter Beatriz, 25, has just entered college in the area of Education. This month, she began teaching arts and physical education in a public school. Beatriz has a 4 year old son and is in line to receive the Bolsa Família.

In Timbersbrook (Maranhão), 270 kilometers (160 miles) from the capital city of São Luís, Maria Dalva dos Santos Ferreira, 53, and mother of ten children, has not been in the Bolsa Família program from the beginning. But she says that the program changed her life. She spent her life on the farm, breaking babassu coconut to sell the seeds, which are used in the production of cooking oil. Last month, she took her daughter Maria Francisca to also enroll in the Bolsa Família. Maria Francisco is 17 years old and a single mother of two girls: One of 19 months and the other a baby of 2 months, each from a different father, but neither of them live with the girl.

“It will improve (things) greatly. I will not have to brush and break coconuts every day,” says Maria Francisca.

In the same city, Maria do Socorro Gomes Lopes, 53, lives in a house with mud walls, a straw roof and a ditch in the back to prevent flooding when it rains. She remembers previously losing a child in childbirth and another at 8 months with diarrhea. Maria do Socorro lives with her husband, three children and two grandchildren. She receive R$70 (US$35) monthly from Bolsa Família.

Her daughter Maria Edinete Lopes dos Santos, 24, a mother of two girls, is also in the program: she receives R$102 (US$51). On the trail of the older sister, the youngest Maria Ivanete, 19, wants to receive the benefit. Maria Ivanete is in the fifth month of pregnancy. Maria do Socorro doesn’t hide her displeasure with her daughter’s pregnancy, the result of a relationship with a guy who spent one season in the city:

“It’s an expense. When the father is helping, it’s good. But only an expense left for grandma, no.”

In Formosa (state of Goiás), 70 kilometers from the nation’s capital of Brasília, the day worker Silvana Cristina do Carmo, 47, lives in the municipal cemetery Cruz das Almas. Her current husband, Antonio Matias dos Santos, 59, is a gravedigger and caretaker. Silvana met him five years ago when he was doing some cleaning in the house of a room erected in front of the tombs.

Besides the couple, a daughter of Silvana and three grandchildren also live there: all sleep in the living room. The grandchildren are between 4 and 8 years of age. They are children of Silvana’s daughter Elisabete, 25, who works as a maid in Brasilia. According Silvana Cristina, Elisabete receives the Bolsa Família, but is separated from her husband and is now disputing the legalities of will have rights to the card. The daughter who lives in the cemetery is Danielle, 17. Six months pregnant, Danielle goes to school at night, in the 1st year of high school, and says she just hopes the child born in order to request the benefit.

“She’s making her family and will have her own Bolsa Familia,” says Silvana Cristina.

Source: O Globo

1. Auxílio-Gás was a program of income distribution implemented by the Brazilian federal government in 2001 to tend to the beneficiaries of the Rede de Proteção Social (Social Protection Network), along with the Bolsa-Escola (of the do Ministério da Educação or Ministry of Education) and Bolsa-Alimentação (Food Grant) (of the Ministério da Saúde or Ministry of Health).

The program, administered by the Ministério de Minas e Energia (Ministry of Mines and Energy), consisted of the payment of R$15.00 (about US$7.50) for each family with income of up to half the minimum wage every two months, as a way to subsidize the purchase of gas cylinder. It would reach the 4.8 million households that were already served by the Bolsa-Escola in 2002. Source: Wiki

2. An official document recognizing someone as a participant in the job market. In 2008, research showed that domestic workers working without a signed card earned 27% less than the same worker with a signed card. For black women, the situation is even worse: 59% don’t possess this formal contract of employment and they received only 67.4% of the official minimum monthly salary in 2008, which was about R$415 (Brazilian reais or about $230 American dollars).

About Marques Travae 3326 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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