Global Reach: Brazil

Year Work
Total Funds
Invested To Date

EMpower in BRAZIL

As is true in all five of the Latin American countries in which EMpower works, Brazil has high rates of income inequality, poverty, unemployment, gender inequality and violence. Violence is a major problem, with disparities in opportunities fostering social exclusion and contributing to Brazil's high crime rate, particularly in cities and favelas where violence between gangs and police is ever-present.

Brazil also has alarmingly high levels of adolescent pregnancy and violence against women. At 68.4 births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19, Brazil’s adolescent pregnancy rate is significantly higher than the global rate (46). It is even higher among adolescent girls who live in vulnerable communities such as Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where many of EMpower’s grantee partners work. Despite strong legislation on gender-based violence, domestic violence in Brazil is reported every two minutes. In 2018, the number of registered cases of rape increased to the highest number ever recorded (66,041), and reported femicides increased by 11.3 percent, with women most commonly being murdered by their partners or former partners.[1]

Educational quality has consistently been an issue in Brazil, demonstrated by the country’s longtime poor performance on international assessments, including the Program for International Assessment (PISA) test conducted by the OECD in 2018, and the fact that 3.5 million students dropped out or repeated their grade in 2018 alone.[2] For the 2018 PISA test, Brazilian students scored significantly lower in reading, math and science than the OECD average (413, 384, 404 compared to 487, 489, 489, respectively).[3] Boys are also more likely than girls to be out-of-school in every region of Brazil, which is strongly connected to the high levels of violence against male youth. Boys who are involved with gangs in urban areas are unlikely to attend school. School dropout leads to economic insecurity, which is associated with increased likelihood of involvement with gangs and violent activity, particularly for male dropouts.

All of these problems are made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Latin America harder than any other region in the world. Indeed, while Latin America is home to just eight percent of the world’s population, it accounts for roughly 40% of global coronavirus-related deaths.[4]

In Brazil, EMpower seeks to address the persistently high rates of adolescent pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and gender-based violence by supporting work with particularly marginalized populations to improve their life skills and provide comprehensive sexuality education—including gender equality. The focus on gender equity is integral, as global research shows that programs that address gender or power are five times more effective in reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unintended pregnancy than those that do not.[5] EMpower supports the engagement of boys on the topic of gender equality given the key role they play in establishing more equitable gender dynamics. EMpower also supports programs that improve the academic performance, school retention rates, and educational attainment of marginalized young people.


Total population: 212,600,000 (2020)[6]

Percentage of population ages 10-24: 22.7% (2020)[7]

% urban/rural: 86.8% urban (2019)[8]

Special populations (e.g., refugees, indigenous young people, migrants) of interest: While 48% of Brazil’s population is white, 43% is mulatto (mixed white and black), 7% is black, and Asians and indigenous make up the rest (2010)[9]. The Northeast, North, and Center-West, women, and black, mixed race, and indigenous populations are disproportionately affected by poverty. 

Economy and Environment

GDP per capita, whether growing/shrinking: $8,921 (2018), level with recent years.[10]

GINI index and rank: 53.9 (2018) (ranking 9th in the world, indicating extremely high levels of inequality)[11]

% living in poverty (by country’s own poverty line): 8.7% living at/below the country’s poverty line of 140 Brazilian reais (~$44 USD) per month.[12] 

INFORM Risk Index score (2020): Widely-used tool to assess the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters, including the Hazard and Exposure subscale, which includes natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, and floods, and human disasters like conflict. Brazil: 4.3 (Medium, increasing) overall; Rank 71; Hazard and Exposure score: 5.7 (high)

Key issues that affect youth:

Gender inequality

Rank in Global Gender Gap report (2020): 92 (out of 153, where ranking closer to the bottom indicates more gender inequality in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment).[13]

Internet access: in 2018 70% of men used the internet, compared to 70% of women. 84% of men and 86% of women owned a mobile phone.

Education (Quality education, SDG4)

No data on % of young people who make the transition from primary to secondary school.

16% of young people in secondary school (12% girls) are at least 2 years over age for grade (2018)[14]

Secondary school completion rates: Males (69.3%), Females (72.3%) (2018)[15]

PISA reading score (2018): 413 (vs. OECD average of 487)[16]

PISA math score (2018): 384 (vs. OECD average of 489)[17]

PISA science score (2018): 404 (vs. OECD average of 489)[18]

Livelihoods (Decent work and economic growth, SDG 8)

Labor force participation rate for persons aged 15-24: Male (61%), Female (48.8%) (2017)[19]

Percentage of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET): Male (18.8%), Female (28.4%) (2019).[20]

Health and well-being

% of young women 20-24 married by age 18: 26% (2006)[21]

% of young women 20-24 mothers by age 18: not available

Gender-based violence prevalence or acceptance: data unavailable

Social support: 6.1% of 15-29 year olds say they have no friends or relatives they can count on in times of trouble.







[6] Estimated size of populations at mid-year., table beginning on page 142.

[7] UNFPA calculation based on UN Population Division data, as cited in, on table beginning on page 142.



[10], page 179.












Other countries in Latin America:

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