Elas no Congresso is a legislative monitoring project that uses public data from the Brazilian legislature to monitor women’s rights in the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate. With a robot on Twitter, which daily tweets the processing of bills on women’s rights, a ranking that illustrates the position of deputies and senators in relation to this topic, content and disseminated through special reports and a weekly newsletter, Elas no Congresso make monitoring the Brazilian legislative production on topics such as violence against women, sexual and reproductive rights, politics and several others more transparent and didactic.
In just six months of projects, Elas no Congresso have already revealed important narratives about women’s rights in the legislature. We have shown, for example, that 1 in 4 projects on women’s rights in Congress is unfavorable for women. Our ranking and reports were published in Uol, Época, Yahoo, Marie Claire, Rádio Câmara and others. The open source of our robot inspired the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism to monitor bills on freedom of expression and the press. In our newsletter, we reveal the backstage of a disinformation campaign initiated by the Bolsonarista bench for the Chamber to stop the passage of bills that combat violence against women in the pandemic.
Among the 594 ranked parliamentarians, there were reactions of very discomfort among those who were among the worst placed and celebration among the best placed. We have also heard reports from parliamentarians who promised to improve projects that were considered unfavorable by organizations that analyzed the bills to create the ranking. We interviewed 23 parliamentarians in December 2020, among deputies and senators, and, on a scale of 1 to 5, 75% of those who answered how much Elas no Congresso impact their parliamentary performance rated 4 or 5: that is, a great impact.
Elas no Congresso also won the Innovation category of the Claudio Weber Abramo Award for Data Journalism 2020, and was one of ten nominated in the same category for the Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Award 2020.
We mainly use Python to build our robot on Twitter and to analyze data that originates the ranking and reports.
AzMina selected a broad list of keywords often related to women’s rights. These are terms that range from domestic violence, maternity leave and abortion to adjacent themes such as childbirth, child custody and breastfeeding. The robot then does a daily search of the Chamber and Senate APIs to find projects of interest, which have these keywords on their menu, and which had their processing changed on the last day. Finally, she publishes on the Twitter account, using the social network API, the details of this proposition: the legislative house where she is located, the type and number of the article, the author, the main theme, the current status of processing and also the link to the project text. The robot’s code is open and has ample potential to be reproduced with the use of keywords from other important themes for Brazilian democracy.
The ranking was developed with statistical advice based on certain criteria and their weights. The modeling and tests were done in R. This ranking has been transformed into a visualization and allows institutions and companies to map stakeholders for their advocacy strategies, and for voters to know the performance of those they elected. The website has a responsive design, automatically adjusting depending on the device on which it is being displayed, ensuring that it is the content viewed on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer. The site is also user friendly, with a user-focused (UX) experience design.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Elas no Congresso is the first legislative, public and free monitoring project, specializing in women’s rights in the country. AzMina joined the project with its expertise in technology, journalism, and advocacy and mobilization, an unprecedented initiative in the country at a time when women’s rights have been victims of daily attacks by the federal government and Congress. Today, Elas no Congresso have articulation with feminist organizations, which help in the evaluation of bills and also receive and use our monitoring to organize their advocacy strategies, with parliamentarians who are evaluated, interviewed and share their agendas and proposals with us, with the the press that uses this data to cover gender, and with civil society that mobilizes to draw the attention of parliamentarians responsible for the progress and setbacks monitored by the project. All of this despite the immense difficulties that the pandemic has imposed on the team.
What can others learn from this project?
For the media ecosystem, the project reduces the difficulty for reporters and editors to keep track of complicated and, in most cases, not as transparent processes as the bills move forward in regional legislative bodies. Our project facilitates coverage of women’s rights in local and national vehicles.
Furthermore, today, large companies have money, structures, tools and human resources dedicated to monitoring and managing their interests in Congress. But most civil society and press organizations have not yet fully mastered these methods. Elas no Congresso is a project of open code and methodology that allows replicability for monitoring any sector, a very important tool for the press that needs to spend financial and human resources to cover the legislative production of Congress on different fronts. Our robot inspired the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism to monitor bills on freedom of expression and the press, for example.
The lack of monitoring of political action undermines public debate on themes and projects that have the potential to impact the lives of half of the Brazilian population, in addition to undermining support for or opposition to these projects.