Portugal's parliament gets its first black women lawmakers
By Katherine Berjikian
The election was held earlier this month (Credit: AP/Armando Franca)

The election was held earlier this month (Credit: AP/Armando Franca)

Portugal's parliament has returned to business after its election - with three black women now among the lawmakers, a first for the country.

Helder Amaral, the first and only other black representative to have served in Portugal's parliament, was elected in 1974. 

The three women were involved in Portugal's anti-racism movement before taking office. There are no official figures for the ethnic make-up of the population.

They were not the only firsts in the 6 October election - Anche Ventura, from the far-right Chega (Enough), became the first far-right politician to win a seat in Portugal's parliament since 1974. 

António Costa, Portugal's Prime Minister, was re-elected, but his party, the Socialist Party (PS), were 10 seats short of an outright majority. Costa's centre-right opponents won 77 seats, 12 seats less than they did in the 2015 election. 

In order to maintain a majority in Parliament, PM Costa is expected to revamp Geringonça, a previous agreement between the socialists and other far-left political parties, the Communist Party and the Bloco de Esquerda (left-bloc). 

So who are the three women making history in the new parliament?

Joacine Katar Moreira 

Joacine Katar Moreira before her swearing-in ceremony (Credit: AFP/ Carlos Costa)

Joacine Katar Moreira before her swearing-in ceremony (Credit: AFP/ Carlos Costa)

Joacine Katar Moreira was elected as Livre's Lisbon representative and claimed that this election marks a"new era" in Portugal.  Livre is a new eco-socialist party, and Moreira was their first and only politician elected to parliament. 

The 37-year-old politician was born in Guinea-Bissau, and moved to Lisbon when she was eight-years-old to attend boarding school. This was the second time she stood for the Livre party. 

The first time was in the 2015 elections when she was 22nd on their list. Moreira is also the founder and president of the Black Women's Institute in Portugal, an anti-racist organisation formed in 2018.

In an interview with Portuguese newspaper Jornal i, she said: "Going to an election in an environment that is not used to having black men nor black women in areas of visibility is, of course, a true revolution." 

Moreira also advocates for the naturalization of all people born in Portugal and to increase the Portuguese minimum wage from €600 ($655) to €900 ($997).   

An online-petition tried to stop her from taking office after her supporters were seen waving Guinea-Bissau's flags at her victory celebration.

She responded on twitter: "People who suddenly dream of my resignation... contributing nothing and undermining everything, or signing petitions, listen: this has always been a war for people like me."

Around 50 people protested in front of Portugal's Assembly of the Republic on 21 October in support of Moreira.

Romualda Fernandes

Romualda Fernandes is a 65-year-old lawyer and migration expert born in Guinea-Bissau who ran for PM Costa's Socialist party. Fernandes has been a member of the UN's International Organization for Migration and the Governing Board of the High Commissioner for Migration. 

She was the 19th politician on the Socialists' list.

In September, she told Deutsche Welle that she was running to "firmly fight discrimination... one of the [policies] of the Socialist Party is also the fight against inequalities and it is this area that I also very much embrace." 

Beatriz Gomes Dias

Beatriz Gomes Dias, a 48-year-old activist and former teacher, ran with the left-bloc. She is also the president of Djass, an anti-racism association. 

Djass's mission is "to defend the rights of black and African descendants in Portugal and to combat racism." 

In 2018 the organisation campaigned for a memorial that would honor the millions of African slaves transported to America on Portuguese ships. 

The memorial was approved last year and will overlook Lisbon's port, where slaves were taken before being transported to the Americas. This would be the first memorial in Portugal to mark the country's involvement in the pan-Atlantic slave trade. 

In an interview with the US radio station NPR about the memorial, Dias said: "I remember being a child, looking at the majority of Portuguese people and not being like them, and not having a place for me and people like me."

She added: "The black Portuguese are not recognized as Portuguese, because they are always relating black Portuguese to the countries in Africa that were occupied by Portugal." 

Source(s): AFP