Sunday, September 26, 2010

Women on the Border Demand a Future

Women workers on the U.S.-Mexico border launched a campaign last week to demand federal attention and national support for women's efforts to create jobs and security on the border with a call for a summit on women and development on the border. Major funding sources along the border exclude women workers. Women's programs--plans that would provide economic security and long term development to their families and communities-need and deserve funding.

Border women workers are angry that their livelihoods, their communities, and futures are written off as "unfortunate but necessary casualties." In reality, women and their families are the focal point of the poverty, violence, and discrimination generated in today's border environment.

First with NAFTA, and now with the "war on drugs" and border security, both the federal government and the transnationals have left women and their families to live and die amidst the border's poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. The women are demanding an end to this negligence and abandonment.

Women workers on the border demand security and jobs

Border communities reel with overall unemployment percentages topping 10% overall, with even higher rates for women workers. Border communities like El Paso aren't creating enough jobs to absorb the unemployed with college degrees, let alone the women workers who frequently are not as qualified. 
The President and Congress are committing billions of dollars to create jobs, promote development and strengthen border security.  But few resources or policies are directed towards solutions to problems faced by the women and their families. Their conditions are worsened by government's policies.  

Instead, U.S. transnationals operate maquilas, and those seeking to profit from the violence and poverty in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico are reaping in millions of dollars. Grassroots organizations, especially those led by low-income women on the border, are excluded.

Why do we invest in infrastructure benefiting transnational corporations and not in community-led development? Women refuse to accept this fate.  Organized and resilient, they pursue their own version of security and employment.

La Mujer Obrera in El Paso is one such example. Through their daycare program, restaurant, festival marketplace, museum, media center, education programs, micro enterprise incubator, and artisan import company, women are creating genuine border security. 

And there are other communities of low income women on the border who, like La Mujer Obrera dream of creating spaces where cultural arts and grassroots micro-enterprises can flourish. This restores economy, pride, and dignity in women's neighborhoods.

Experts cite the efficacy of investment in low-income communities and women's development efforts. Studies by Policy Link and the National Women's Law Center document that need as a priority. But local and national media focus instead on border violence and security issues. This misses the solutions that border women can implement when they have the meaningful investment of resources. 

Women workers in El Paso, with the support of La Mujer Obrera, call on women throughout the border region to bring attention to these issues:
  • President Obama and border Congressional representatives need to convene a summit to identify strategies to support and invest in border women workers' development.
  • Public-private initiatives need to prioritize border women's efforts to restore their communities from the damaging effects of international trade policies.
  • To focus on the issue, they've launched a drive to register women who are seeking employment in the region.
The needs and benefits of investing in low-income communities and women's development efforts have been documented in various studies. Yet, the women say they are "fighting our hardest battle ever - sustainability in the weakest U.S. economy in decades and a future being designed without us."

The conditions of women on the border are urgent. They need, they say, justice and equity now. 


an average patriot said...

That border fence is one of the most asinine wastes of money I ever saw.

Most people never think about this and women but taking care of them on both sides of the border should be a top priority.

They really can change the equation there on many levels.

a211423 said...

This is a great report Billie. Women and children's issues get prioritized to the end of the list when many organizations including the government create "grand designs" for women who have not had the opportunities of education and mobility within our society. Sometimes it's the small interventions that do the most good. Small business loans for women who can engage in cottage industry, offering community college and adult school classes that are ethnically appropropriate to help women help themselves in today's job market. Free childcare for women who want to go to school. Services that support women to improve themselves, not hand outs which opponents of the poor wrongly characterize them.