Machisma: How a mix of female empowerment and steamy soap operas helped bring down Brazil’s fertility rate and stoke its vibrant economy

September 14, 2011 • Family Planning, Brazil, Serial Dramas, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Cecelia Angelone for this article. See http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/girl-power/gorney-text. As you may know, Population Media Center’s office in Brazil works closely with TV Globo, and the head of TV Globo’s Social Merchandising Division serves on Population Media Center’s Program Advisory Board. This article is from the September issue of National Geographic.

Machisma: How a mix of female empowerment and steamy soap operas helped bring down Brazil’s fertility rate and stoke its vibrant economy.

By Cynthia Gorney

Photograph by John Stanmeyer

José Alberto, Murilo, Geraldo, Angela, Paulo, Edwiges, Vicente, Rita, Lucia, Marcelino, Teresinha. That makes 11, right? Not including the stillbirth, the three miscarriages, and the baby who lived not quite one full day. Dona Maria Ribeiro de Carvalho, a gravelly-voiced Brazilian lady in her 88th year, completed the accounting of her 16 pregnancies and regarded José Alberto, her oldest son, who had come for a Sunday visit and was smoking a cigarette on her couch. “With the number of children I had,” Dona Maria said mildly, her voice conveying only the faintest reproach, “I should have more than a hundred grandchildren right now.”

José Alberto, who had been fishing all morning at the pond on his ranch, was still in his sweatpants. His mother’s front room in the mid-Brazil town of São Vicente de Minas was just big enough to contain three crowded-in armchairs, a television, numerous family photos, framed drawings of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin, and the black vinyl couch upon which he, Professor Carvalho, retiring head of his university’s School of Economics and one of the most eminent Brazilian demographers of the past half century, now reclined. He put his feet up and smiled. He knew the total number of grandchildren, of course: 26. For much of his working life, he had been charting and probing and writing about the remarkable Brazilian demographic phenomenon that was replicated in miniature amid his own family, who within two generations had crashed their fertility rate to 2.36 children per family, heading right down toward the national average of 1.9.

To read the full article, please click here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/09/girl-power/gorney-text


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