The Instituto de Apoio á Criança was born in 1983, at the initiative of Manuela Ramalho Eanes, to whom were associated outstanding personalities of the Portuguese civic life of that time, such as João dos Santos, Matilde Rosa Araújo, Maria José Lobo Fernandes, Emílio Salgueiro, Sérgio Niza, Luisa Ducla Soares, Maria Emília Brederode Santos and Meneres Barbosa.
The IAC was created as a fruit of this great movement that emerged with the International Year of the Child and already with the new perspective of Child as a subject of Rights.
Violence against children is no longer accepted in Human Rights circles, and the 1982 Penal Code of 23 September defines the crime of child abuse.
The idea of setting up a children’s NGO was innovative because in a country with an autocratic history it would not be foreseeable for so many personalities from different walks of life, professional and academic, to unite around a cause that has not yet attained that much visibility and which, in turn, facilitates the path of difficult life trajectories.
We were living in our country a devastating social and financial crisis, of which “back pay” was the most dramatic phenomenon. Unemployment reached high percentages and the International Monetary Fund was called in that year of 1983 by the Central Bloc Government, as there was a serious pre-bankruptcy situation, and Portugal, which had not yet joined the EEC (the precursor of the European Union), had a weak economy, which also resented the old methods whose non-renewal led to a decline in fisheries and agriculture, and a very harsh de-industrialization, due to the failure to renew the old industries that had begun to compete with Asian markets, where cheap labor led to savage competition, which globalization would later make more obvious.
In this context of serious difficulties for families, the founding of the IAC was viewed with great sympathy by intellectual circles, and was regarded as a necessity by professionals such as doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, teachers and magistrates.
I learned of this founding in my first judicial district, Setúbal, where the first Bishop of Setúbal, Dom Manuel Martins, a close friend of President Ramalho Eanes and his wife, Manuela Eanes, who presided over the IAC for more than thirty years and who is now its Honorary President.
I was enthusiastic because only then did I begin to have a more real sense of the lives of children and women who were victims of violence, aggravated also by the serious social crisis caused by the closure of several factories in the district.
When, months later, a memorable meeting was held in the Gulbenkian where measures were requested to combat child abuse, I was there and I witnessed the importance of not being silenced anymore.
It was a very rich path that I have always followed and that marked the history of child protection in our country.
In assuming the presidency of the IAC, I have always thought of these functions as a service, which I will exercise with the aim of contributing to the elevation of the Statute of the Child, for its Dignity and in its best interest.
I know I can count on motivated and competent teams and the Board committed to this greater cause, but we have to be able to bring in more people, because there are a lot of people full of energy and with experience who can join us. We are never too many to fight poverty and violence in order to achieve a less unequal and fairer world.
Today, the IAC is a reference at national and international level and has been able to reinvent itself in order to be able to help more and better. That is what has now happened with the pandemic and the declaration of the State of Emergency, which has forced us to rethink methodologies in order to continue our actions, while always supporting children and young people and their families, especially those who live in situations of greater adversity and vulnerability.
I am confident that even firmer solidarity will emerge from this crisis.
I believe that the words of Jorge de Sena will be able to echo ever more strongly in the hearts of good people who each day feel the need to pay homage to the “honor of being alive”, and do not accept indifference to violence, social exclusion and injustice.
The Board of Directors Chairwoman