1.5 million girls are out of school in Brazil — and Indigenous girls are the most likely to miss out on education at both the primary and lower secondary level. While Indigenous people make up only 0.5% of the country’s population, they are 30% of its illiterate population. Lack of public transportation to school, early marriage, child labour and teen pregnancy are some of the barriers that prevent Indigenous girls from learning.
Ana Paula Ferreira’s approachGirl Activist Training
As a former history teacher, Ana Paula saw firsthand the challenges Indigenous students face. After volunteering in Indigenous communities for over 16 years, she chose to pursue her activism full time and joined the National Association of Indigenous Action (ANAÍ) in 2014. As the project coordinator at ANAÍ, Ana Paula teaches Indigenous communities to map their lands and use sustainable farming practices.
With her Malala Fund grant, Ana Paula researches how the Brazilian public education system can better support Indigenous girls. She also coordinates the Cunhataí Ikhã (Girls in the Fight) project, which trains Indigenous girls to advocate for their right to education and provides them with the opportunity to speak out at key political events.
Ana Paula Ferreira’s impact
Ana Paula Ferreira’s impact
In 2019, ANAÍ trained 60 Indigenous girls in advocacy techniques through the Cunhataí Ikhã project. In May 2019, the girls attended the Indigenous Camp of Bahia state, a summit to discuss the rights of Indigenous people and present their demands to the state government. One of the Cunhataí Ikhã students, Joana, gave a speech to officials at the state legislative chamber about the importance of Indigenous girls’ education. In August 2019, Ana Paula and Cunhataí Ikhã students travelled to Brasília to participate in the first Indigenous Women’s March.
With the other Brazilian Education Champions, Ana Paula organised a public hearing in November 2019 where quilombola and Indigenous girls urged Brazilian leaders to support their education. At the hearing, the Malala Fund Champions presented their new report, which encouraged the National Congress of Brazil to renew the Fund for Maintenance and Development of Basic Education and Valuing Education Professionals (FUNDEB). FUNDEB is the government financing mechanism that makes sure marginalised schools get the resources they need to support their students. Unless Congress takes action, FUNDEB will end in December 2020. Their report also explained the structural racism that prevents students in Brazil from learning and recommends how leaders can address these inequalities with changes and increases in education funding. The report also included testimonials from girls about the challenges facing their schools, including poor bathrooms, unreliable transportation, underpaid teachers and insufficient access to technology.
As a result of the years of advocacy from education leaders like Ana Paula, in August 2020, the Brazilian senate approved the constitutional amendment that makes FUNDEB permanent, an important step in ensuring that the government funds free and quality basic education for all students.