For three years, Silvia Liger Silva Cruz, 44, has lived with her two sons – Lucas, 23, and Fabrício, 15 – in the Carolina Maria de Jesus occupation, in the East Zone of São Paulo.
She is a hairdresser and manicurist. During the pandemic, she lost clients. She was unable to pay the rent on the apartment where she lived in Cidade Tiradentes, also in the East Zone. All she had to do was build a shack measuring 6 square meters on an occupied plot of land.
She moved there in 2019. Since then, this shack has grown. But so far it doesn’t even have a bathroom and kitchen.
::Women are the most affected by agribusiness, says MST leader ::
“We shower in the shared bathroom. It does what it has to do in the bucket and then unloads it,” she explained. “My shack is made of wood and canvas. There’s still a lot of water coming in.”
Silvia is one of the 3.4 million women in the country who are responsible for households considered unsuitable for housing. The homes of these women account for 60% of the Brazilian housing deficit, which in 2019 was nearly 5.9 million homes – that is, women are the most affected by the problem.
The so-called housing deficit comprises families or people who basically live in three situations: in extremely precarious or improvised houses, as is the case of Silvia; who share the same residence with another family; or who pay such high rent that they have to decide whether to buy food or pay the monthly bill.
::It is important to talk about inequalities between men and women::
In all these cases, women are the majority, according to the most up-to-date data on the subject, presented by the federal government in 2021. These calculations were made by the João Pinheiro Foundation (FJP), based on figures from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).
According to Raquel Ludermir, PhD in Urban Development, national coordinator for political advocacy at the NGO Habitat para a Humanidade Brasil, the reasons for this female majority in the deficit are many. They range from the greatest difficulty in accessing education to the patriarchal way in which Brazilian society is structured.
Ludermir, however, explains that almost all of these issues boil down to two problems that directly affect women who do not have an adequate home to live in: the “feminization of poverty” and domestic violence.
“Women are more frequently and more accentuated in a situation of poverty, and this reflects on the issue of housing,” he said. “And on top of that there is the issue of domestic violence. We hear cases of women having to leave the house to protect themselves, to survive.”
::In defense of women’s rights, acts take place across the country in this 8M; see list ::
Graça Xavier, from the National Union for Popular Housing (UNMP) and the Union of Housing Movements of São Paulo (UMM-SP), confirms the diagnosis.
She, personally, was only able to complete high school after being married and with children. In the 1980s and 1990s, she was unable to pay rent to live with her family. She lived in borrowed shelters. She only took up residence in 1992, after building, through joint efforts, a house in Jardim Celeste, in the South Zone of São Paulo.
“Most get married or have children very early. You don’t have time to study. You can’t get a good job,” she said, who still helps register female heads of households who need housing.
“There is a demographic component to this problem. There are many families headed by women, especially with low income. We have many single mothers, divorced, abandoned by their husbands,” added Camila D’Ottaviano, researcher at the Observatório das Metrópoles and professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP), about the female deficit.
This deficit, by the way, has been known by activists and scholars for years. Only in 2021, however, has it been verified by official statistics.
It was in this year that the FJP included in its surveys the division by gender of the leadership of families without adequate housing. That survey was based on IBGE data collected between 2016 and 2019.
Raquel, from Habitat para a Humanidade Brasil, says that what was surprising in these four years is that the housing deficit among women has grown, even with public policies that privilege them. In 2016, 54.6% of the families that make up the deficit were headed by women – 5.4 percentage points less than in 2019.
::’In any instance, the predominant functioning is male’::
Law 11,124, from 2005, sanctioned by then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), determines that houses of social interest must be registered, preferably, in the name of women in order to protect them.
“It is common for ex-husbands to sell their houses, use the money and leave the woman with nothing”, exemplified Ludermir. “The law prevents that.”
Raquel stated that the data on the deficit among women shows how difficult it is to solve this problem. According to her, just building houses does not resolve the issue. This is because many women who make up the deficit had homes, and some abandoned them due to threats and aggression from their partners or people close to them.
“Minha Casa Minha Vida alone is not enough,” she said, citing the federal housing construction program relaunched last month. “If a woman – even if she is a beneficiary of a housing program – is faced with a situation of extreme violence, she will leave the house, she will lose it and never come back.”
::Women from the MST take up new occupations in Bahia, one of them in Chapada Diamantina::
She recalls that combating domestic violence is essential. It is also necessary to ensure that women who are victims of the problem are accommodated in suitable shelters so that they do not end up also increasing the deficit.
Raquel also points out that the deficit accounted for in surveys does not account for the real dimension of the problem, being undersized. In the specific case of women, there are many victims of violence living with their aggressors because they have nowhere else to go.
“Official data show a lot, but they do not cover the entire complexity of the problem”, concluded the expert.
Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho
Leave a Reply