Benedita da Silva

Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio, (born in Rio de Janeiro, April 26, 1943) is an Afro-Brazilian politician. During her life she faced a lot of prejudice for her humble origin, but she overcame the adversities and was Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro and, later, Minister of State in the Government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.


Benedita Souza da Silva Sampaio, was born on April 26, 1943 in Praia do Pinto out of wedlock to João Modesto Elias. Her mother Ovidia revealed the truth to her, that her father was not Jose. Moreover she is one of thirteen siblings. Benedita da Silva is also known as Bene and is an Afro-Brazilian politician. During her life she faced a lot of prejudice for her humble origin, but she overcame these adversities to become Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro and, later, Minister of State in the Government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.


According to da Silva her mother’s matriarchal tendencies have profoundly influenced her development. From her she learned the virtues of independence and self-determination. Da Silva grew up in the Favela of Chapéu Mangueira in Copacabana. Growing up in the favela allowed her to read and write unlike her siblings who were confined to the lifestyle of living in fazenda. Forced by circumstances, she found herself a victim of child labor, which was common in her region. Silva underwent an undeniably difficult childhood, being exposed to many harsh realities such as rape at the age of seven, several miscarriages, and having a baby which died soon after birth. At 16 she started working with the community school of the Chapéu Mangueira favela. She also established a women's association in the favela where she lived and, later, the feminine department of the Favela Associations' Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro. She also found time to work as nursing aide and to complete the course of Social Studies. Moreover, at the age of forty she finally received her high school diploma, and began to attend college at the same time as her 20 year-old daughter. During this period she also married Manshino.

After he passed, she became more involved in community work and met her second husband Bola, who was also involved in community work. Bola inspired her politically and coordinated her campaign, which resulted in her historic election as the first Workers Party representative in Rio. Only after five years, however, she would become widowed for the second time. She would later meet her new husband, actor, Pitanga, when she was campaigning for Federal Deputy. These relationships and the dynamics of Brazilian life combined with her activist qualities propelled da Silva to political prominence and controversy.

She did so at a time when women weren't integrated or accepted into Brazil's political process. Neither the loss of two husbands nor the hostility of the Brazilian press could deter her emotionally or politically. She endured their diatribes and worked to change conditions for all Brazilians. Today she is an advocate of women's rights both in Brazil and around the world. Egalitarianism is her goal, not just for her constituents but to persons everywhere who are adversely affected by prejudice and poverty. According to da Silva, "Racial democracy only exists in school books and official speeches; the elite in Brazil have promoted the myth of racial harmony to make people accept certain forms of discrimination and to deny the need for affirmative action." Da Silva's life is guided by this desire, and her legacy will be a testament to her commitment. As a descendant of the African Diaspora, she is committed to obtaining full citizenship for her people, and full humanity for global citizens.


  • Benedita da Silva:An Afro-Brazilian Woman's Story of Politics and Love, Food First Books, Oakland, CA., 1997.

Political career

  • 1982 - She was elected city councilor of Rio de Janeiro for the Worker's Party.
  • 1986 - Elected to the National Congress, she fought to make amendments to the Brazilian Constitution on racial crimes, 120 days maternity leave, prohibition of difference of wages and right of the prison inmates to breat-feed their children.
  • 1994 - She was elected for the Senate, becoming the first female senator in Brazil.
  • 1998 - She became Vice-Governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro on the Anthony Garotinho ticket.
  • 2002 - With Governor Anthony Garotinho resigning to run for President, she assumes the Governorship of the State of Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first woman to occupy the office.
  • 2003 - Leaving the State government, she takes the position of Minister of the Social Action, where she remains until January 2004.
  • 2006 - Assumed the general coordination of the campaign of re-election of current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the state of Rio De Janeiro. Some periodicals speculate that, in 2008, she will run for mayor of the City of Rio De Janeiro. Others, argue that the former-governor will run for mayor of Itaboraí (a fast-growing suburb of Rio de Janeiro).

See also

Search another word or see Benedita_da_Silvaon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature