Ana Lúcia Villela

Ashoka Fellow
Sao Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Ana Lúcia Villela was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Throughout her life, Ana Lúcia has been committed to the field of childhood development. She is concerned with creating an environment where children can thrive and she has identified consumerist culture as one of the first obstacles to surmount in order to make this vision a reality. Ads have been proven to lead to over-consumption amongst children: Girls are maturing sexually earlier than they would otherwise; kids are gaining weight, socializing less and overvaluing things over experiences. Ana Lúcia is therefore developing mechanisms to control the commercialization of childhood.

In 2005 Ana Lúcia created Projeto Criança e Consumo (Children and Consumerism Project), which is housed within the Alana Institute. This is the first project of its kind in Brazil to spark a debate about the effects of ads on childhood development and to challenge the legal frameworks that allow the advertizing industry to thrive by targeting a young audience. She is working tirelessly to ensure that kids can soon begin to enjoy commercial free childhoods. In order to do so, Ana Lúcia has created channels of communication to give the public access to news and information about this topic and equip them with the tools they need to take action once marketing abuses are identified. She is also working with influential decision-makers (i.e. in government and big advertizing companies) to change their approaches and introduce new norms to regulate the publicity industry.

As a result of her work, Ana Lúcia has successfully entrenched this issue in Brazil’s social and political agenda. She has not simply focused on changing the minds of media and communications professionals; she is creating crosscutting alliances by involving academics, students, public servants and large businesses in the debate. The Alana Institute has secured important legal victories that have increased regulatory norms for ads targeting children; the institute has championed hundreds of legal cases; and has disseminated more than 500 news stories about the topic in 2009 alone, thus incentivizing the public to report thousands of abuses by the advertizing industry. With the support of the News Agency for Children’s Rights–ANDI network, Ana Lúcia plans to spread this initiative beyond the five states where she currently operates to reach all of Latin America. She clearly sees the entrenchment of a commercial free childhood as merely one step to guaranteeing healthy childhood development, and she intends to broaden her horizons once that goal has been achieved.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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