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Women Helping Women Campaign

The photos above show a recent Promotora meeting in Reynosa, Mexico that Partners for Responsible Trade Inc. attended in April 2014.

Knowledge is power. Many workers who come to work in an international factory along Mexico’s border have no knowledge of the labor laws that protect their rights and provide for a safe working environment for them. Most of these workers are young women (80%+) who come from rural areas of Mexico. Many are recruited from their home villages by the multi-national corporations themselves. They come full of hope and optimism seeking a better life, a good paying job and financial security. Unfortunately, what they often find when they get to the industrial parks is something very different.


Most of the jobs for these young women in international factories are low paying, some under $1.00 (U.S.) an hour. And they may face dangerous working conditions as well. On our visits to meet with these ladies and hear their stories we have heard stories of workers being forced to work with dangerous chemicals from which the labels on containers are routinely removed so the workers don’t know what they are working with. Safety equipment (gloves and masks) are inadequate and skin burns and discolorations from chemicals are common. Birth defects amongst their children are high in the border regions as well. Industrial machinery used in the factories is often stripped of its safety devices in order to speed up production. This leaves workers working with heavy industrial machinery that has no safeguards against malfunction.


Working hours are long and breaks are few. These women also report sometimes being forced to take monthly pregnancy tests and subsequent illegal terminations when pregnant workers are found. This practice, among other discriminatory practices, is in direct violation of Mexico’s Labor Law which provides safeguards for pregnant women.


When looking for housing near their work, these women often find that when they arrive in the neighborhoods surrounding the industrial parks the housing that is available to them is appalling. Some neighborhoods where workers live consist of housing patched together from discarded pallets and boxes from the neighboring factories. Running water and sewer services are sometimes not available so outhouses are used. In addition, trash from the factories is routinely dumped into the surrounding neighborhoods and left to rot. Liquid waste from the factories, including various chemicals and waste water, is dumped into neighborhood canals, streams and rivers.


This is not the hopeful new life these women came to find. But for many, who have no money to return to their villages in the South, this is their reality and their future.


Partners for Responsible Trade Inc. has been working with a group of outreach workers along the factory region of the Mexico/US border. These women (referred to as Promotoras) are current or former factory workers who have become educated on current Mexican Labor Laws. Promotoras typically organize in small groups in their neighborhoods to discuss labor issues and help factory workers find solutions (within the current Labor Law) for workplace problems in international factories. These problems can include worker safety issues, unfair terminations, on-the-job injuries, etc. They are not involved in trying to change the law but rather in trying to educate their fellow workers on their rights under the current law.


These Promotoras give of their time and energy to help improve conditions for their fellow workers. They receive no pay, they are volunteers. Sometimes, being known as a Promotora leads to them being “blacklisted” from being able to work in the surrounding factories, thereby limiting a source of future employment for them. Despite this, they are dedicated to their work and take great pride in the victories that they sometimes achieve for their fellow workers. They have helped many workers to realize their benefits under current Labor Law and receive fair treatment.


During our meetings with these women, we have learned that many of the Promotoras do not have access themselves to the internet and other resources to assist in their work of helping others. Having access to computers and the internet will allow them to research any changes in the labor laws, to reach workers, and to report accidents and incidents in the factories.


The Women Helping Women Campaign is designed to provide information and resources to these outreach workers to make their efforts easier. One initiative we are working on with the Women Helping Women Campaign is to provide laptop computers to a small group of Promtoras that we have been working with in Reynosa and Rio Bravo and teach them how to use them for researchand to further their efforts to help workers. We feel that by connecting them to the internet they can gain more knowledge about issues affecting the workers that they assist and find better solutions for them.


You can donate to the Women Helping Women Campaign today via the DONATE icon on our website. Donating today will help better the lives of many workers and their families.



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