Protesters decry low diversity at Rio Fashion Week

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Models present TNG creations

Models present TNG creations for the 2013 autumn/winter collection during Fashion Rio on November 7 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio Fashion Week kicked off amid a protest by activists demanding more work opportunities for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian and indigenous majority

Rio Fashion Week kicked off amid a protest by activists demanding more work opportunities for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian and indigenous majority.

The protest late Wednesday was organized by Educafro, a lobby group fighting for labor rights for Brazil's blacks and indigenous people -- who make up 53 percent of the country's 194-million-strong population but are economically disadvantaged.

"We want to show our situation to those who refuse to see it," student Renan de Carvalho said.

"We are not going to back down. We, Afro-Brazilians, make up the world's second largest black population, (after Nigeria's) but our rights are not guaranteed."

Sporting body and face paint and wearing ethnic clothing, the activists demanded greater opportunities, not only in fashion but more generally in the fields of arts and culture.

"We demand the right to be in universities, on the fashion catwalks and on theater stages," said Marco Rocha, a 26-year-old actor who has been taking part in protests against the Rio and Sao Paulo fashion events for the past seven years.

In 2009, Sao Paulo Fashion Week was forced to adopt quotas requiring at least 10 percent of the models to be of African ancestry or indigenous people.

The Sao Paulo event, the premier fashion showcase for Latin America, had previously featured only a handful of black models: typically less than three percent of the 350 or so models that sashayed down the catwalk.

But a year later the quotas were removed, after a conservative prosecutor deemed them unconstitutional, lamented David Santos, a Franciscan friar who heads Educafro.

Since then, Educafro has been holding talks with the federal government to find ways of upholding these quotas throughout Brazil's fashion world, he said: "But so far the presence of blacks remains very low."

In late August, after 13 years of debate, Brazil enacted a new law reserving half the spots in public universities and technical institutes for public school students, with priority for Afro-Brazilian and indigenous students, aiming to correct traditional disparities.

Models present TNG creations for the 2013 autumn/winter collection during Fashion Rio on November 7 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio Fashion Week kicked off amid a protest by activists demanding more work opportunities for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian and indigenous majority.

Models present TNG creations for the 2013 autumn/winter collection during Fashion Rio on November 7 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio Fashion Week kicked off amid a protest by activists demanding more work opportunities for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian and indigenous majority.