Tabata Amaral: Brazil's AOC
Updated: Sep 4
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a liberal politician from New York that has taken the country by storm. She stands up for herself on Twitter, she has humble roots, and most importantly, she has set her sights on reducing inequality in the U.S., and she’s not afraid to say it. She is the face of a groundbreaking grassroots movement to redefine liberal politics, and she’s responsible for a major shift in the recent priorities of establishment Democrats.
So it is great news to hear that Brazil seems to have someone that many are calling another AOC. Harvard-educated politician Tabata Amaral, the daughter of two hard working blue-collar parents, was elected to Brazil’s Congress in 2018 when she was just 24. She won in a landslide victory, joining ranks as one of the youngest congresswomen in the country’s history. Her platform championed the need to better public education in Brazil. She points out that improving education for the underprivileged children of Brazil will lessen the inequality she witnessed as a child (1). She hopes to give children the opportunities and quality of life that many of her childhood friends did not have (1) .
Because of the difficulties I faced—and perhaps even more so, because of the opportunities I had—I was able to see Brazilian inequality from both sides. This shows just how big an impact education can have on a person’s life. But the people around me faced very different realities—not because they didn’t try hard enough, or because they weren’t smart, but because they didn’t have the same opportunities. I lost my father to drug addiction. I’ve lost friends and neighbors to crime and violence. When you’ve experienced inequality so intensely, you feel the urge to do something. That’s why I decided to become an education activist. I realized that if I really wanted to change Brazilian education, I had to change politics as well.
-- Tabata Amaral (2).
Like AOC, Amaral is motivated by this deep inequality she witnessed growing up. She herself was able to secure opportunities that changed her life for the better, winning a math competition in high school and later being awarded a scholarship to attend Harvard University. But working in Bolsonaro’s far right wing government is no easy job. BBC lauds Amaral’s presence in Congress as a much-needed “bridge” between the right and left. An advocate for positive action and against simply pandering for reelection, Amaral has been awarded “the jury prize for best lower house representative”(1).
The implications for Amaral’s rise to success in an 85% male Congress are immense (1). She is very candid about her aversion to one or two people controlling the rights and resources allocated to 200 million people. She has been outspoken about the fact that there should be more women in the Brazilian Congress, and publicly noted that her presence as a woman in congress was not very well-received.
Tabata Amaral sets a great example for young women and hopeful democracies all over the world, just like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Female leadership has been beneficial to countries like New Zealand, Scotland, and Iceland-- countries that have women at the highest levels of their government, countries which have all had “far less COVID-related deaths” and have overseen the prioritization of “long-term social well-being” over “short-term economic gain” (3). Despite the barriers women have to overcome to get elected, women continue to push boundaries and make change for the better. Amaral, like Jacinda Ardern and Nicola Sturgeon, puts the mental and physical well-being of her constituents first (3). She pushes to better the lives of all of her constituents, and that’s what an elected official should do.