UN Panel Highlights the Voices of Female Migrant Workers

Last week CIERTO COO Carolyn Fairman was featured on a UN panel focusing on women in the migrant labor force.

Presented by the AVINA Foundation, Women Speak: Experiences and Good Practices to Strengthen the Exercise of the Rights of Women Migrant Agricultural Workers sought to shine a spotlight on the unique issues female immigrants face when they join the migrant workforce. 

CIERTO Chief Operations Officer, Carolyn Fairman

According to the International Labor Organization’s ILOSTAT project, agriculture and food production employ around a third of the global workforce. Migrants make up the majority of those workers, and the number of female workers among them is increasing. 

Women comprise about 42% of the migrant workforce, and face gender-specific challenges, like wage discrimination and sexual harassment, in addition to the issues faced by their male counterparts.

The panel was organized within the framework of the Periplo Project, an organization dedicated to helping groups work collaboratively on corporate responsibility in terms of human and labor rights in the ag industry.

The panel was moderated by journalist Ana María Islas Pérez, and featured female workers telling their stories, as well as prominent journalists, activists, and professionals.

During the presentation, migrant working women spoke powerfully about the realities of day-to-day life in their communities of origin, working conditions on the ground when they arrive at their jobs, and the way worker recruitment is conducted in Central and North America, and Mexico.

Carolyn focused her remarks on the importance of clean, ethical recruiting processes, and open communication between agencies and employers about how to prioritize female workers’ needs.

We need to create safe and respectful recruitment and employment models that protect and benefit working women, as well as the employers who profit from their labor.

There should be an effort by all stakeholders to create a new recruiting norm for the agricultural industry that is ethical, sane, safe and dignified.

Carolyn Fairman

The panel also addressed the fear of retaliation migrant women face when they speak up in defense of their rights, making sure women have a place in decision-making spaces when it comes to organizing, and strategies for securing equal pay, among others.

As Fairman points out, ethical, safe and dignified recruiting processes can play a role in addressing these issues, and in a way that provides benefits to everyone in the process, from the worker picking strawberries, to the shopper browsing the product aisle.  

“We should all be working together to make it clear to growers, retailers and consumers that respecting workers rights – especially women’s rights – is not only the right thing to do, it’s good business as well.” 

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