More than half of the people in Brazil are black or of mixed race, yet they’re under-represented in many sectors of society. And that includes Brazilian stores that sell black dolls.
But change is coming with the addition of a new business aimed at empowering Afro-Brazilian children, which just opened its doors.
From Rio de Janeiro, CGTN’s Lucrecia Franco reports.
Dandara, a handmade doll named after a 17th-century Afro-Brazilian heroine who fought for the eradication of slavery in colonial Brazil, is the best-selling toy of a company called “Era Uma Vez o Mundo”, meaning Once Upon a Time the World.
The tiny but mighty Rio de Janeiro brand has just opened the first brick and mortar black doll store in Brazil.
Jaciana and Leandro Melquiades are the entrepreneurs behind the venture that aims to empower Afro-Brazilian children by offering dolls they can relate to.
“Growing up with a lack of representation made me face serious self-esteem and body image issues and a distorted view of reality because everyone said that what was beautiful didn’t look like me”, Jaciana said.
The Melquiades are among the 54 percent of Brazilians who identify themselves as black or of mixed-race.
Leandro says their business is a battle against racism in the toy industry. “It is not true that there is no demand for black dolls in Brazil, so much that the day we opened the store all the dolls we used to sell online in one month, were sold in an hour and a half.”
And they are pricey. Each doll costs around $17.
Though Brazilians of African-descent comprise more than half of Brazil’s population, only seven percent of the dolls sold in the country are black.
Andrea Gomides, the founder of the social accelerator Ekloos, explains that recognizing a need is key to financing the venture. “Today, 93 percent of the dolls in Brazil are white, so imagine how difficult is to enter this market where people don’t have the habit of buying black dolls. First, we need to have more stores like this one.”
The Melquiades’ goal is to sell 10,000 black dolls this year both on online and in the brand’s new physical store, combining purpose and profit.