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The Center on Colfax

Carmen Barroso (b. 1944)

  • Earned a PhD in Social Psychology at Columbia University
  • Founded first women’s studies center at Carlos Chagas Foundation
  • Belonged to the MacArthur Foundation
  • Brought voices to the International Conference on Population
  • Director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation WHR
  • Received the UN Population Award

A comic in the lesbian magazine Big Mama Rag (Denver, CO.), April 1, 1979.

Carmen Barroso was born in Brazil at the end of World War Two, in an age of democratic renewal. Though, by the time she was a young woman, the country returned to military dictatorship until 1987. Barroso noted "I was striking for better education, better public systems... and that was part of a broader led movement." During her childhood in Brazil, she noted it was a very unequal place, "The public schools were being neglected and the poor kids would go to public schools. Fighting against this injustice is how I started my civic life." She grew up reading Simone de Beauvoir noting she was a feminist since childhood.

She later attended Columbia University, later earning a PhD in Social Psychology, seeing the growing feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She later returned to Brazil founding the first women’s studies center at the Carlos Chagas Foundation. In 1990, she joined the MacArthur Foundation focusing on reproductive health. In 1994, she helped bring voices of women from developing countries to the International Conference on Population and Development, where reproductive health was recognized was an essential right.

In 2003, she became director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere (IPPF/WHR). "March, vote, win." Barroso noted in 2016 when she received the UN Population Award, in recognition for centering reproductive rights at the center of population, noting "The women living in poverty in the periphery of Sao Paolo taught me key lessons... they were the ones who taught me that access to contraception was vital for women of every social class."