To mark International Women’s Day (IWD) 2019 the Izabal Banana Workers’ Union of Guatemala (SITRABI), the country’s oldest private sector union, will be celebrating and commemorating with women workers and their families this weekend.
The union’s Women’s Committee has planned a range of awareness raising activities on domestic violence to mark the occasion. The aim is to ensure that domestic violence is seen as a workplace issue that should be addressed by trade unions through the empowerment of women. There will be creative activities throughout the day giving an opportunity for women to express their feelings towards domestic violence.
Guatemala has one of the most prevalent rates of violence against women in the world, with at least 62 women killed every month in the country. According to United Nations data, there are 27 registered cases of violence against women daily in the country, including sexual, political, economic or labor violence. That means that a woman suffers from violence at least every hour in Guatemala.
The day will also feature a performance educating women and their families on the origins of IWD and the tragic death of 129 women garment workers who were burned to death in 1911 during a textile factory fire whilst striking against poor working conditions, low wages and for not having their rights respected in the workplace.
Women workers all over the world continue in their fight for equity in the workplace, and the women of SITRABI are no different. The trade union represents over 4000 banana workers on Fresh Del Monte subsidiary, Bangedua, farms and those of their suppliers in Izabal, Guatemala. With great perseverance and determination SITRABI continue to defend and promote workers’ rights despite Guatemala being the deadliest place in the world to be a trade unionist with the murder of 73 trade union leaders and representatives between 2007 and 2014, and a high number of attempted murders, kidnappings, break-ins, tortures and death threats.
A Collective Bargaining Agreement between SITRABI and Bandegua has led to better working conditions for men and women workers. SITRABI secretary and Women’s Committee coordinator Selfa Sandoval (pictured left at the World Banana Forum's Multi-stakeholder strategy meeting on Gender Equity in the Banana Industry in 2017) identified 15 negotiated clauses to the agreement which specifically benefit women workers, including a budget of 10,000 quetzales (almost £1,000) which Bandegua gives to the Women’s Committee to organise women’s events including the IWD celebrations.
Since 2004 SITRABI have developed a strategy for negotiating on behalf of women workers which involves extensive consultation with women on the ground and ensuring skilled, confident women representatives have a seat at the negotiating table. The strategy and achievements of SITRABI have been documented in Banana Link’s recent project: Comparative analysis of work towards gender equity in the banana, tea and flower sectors.
Why does Guatemala have one of the highest rates of femicide in the world? (Amnesty International)
Femicide in Mexico and Guatemala (Open Democracy)