By Jessica Farias, Project Officer – Steelworkers Humanity Fund.
In October 2022, the Steelworkers Humanity Fund (SHF) enabled the participation of international partners from Peru and Mexico to the National USW Women’s Conference in Québec City, providing a unique opportunity for Canadian and International union women to gather, share and learn from each other.
Estela Ospina, Peruvian labour activist and founding leader of THANI, an SHF partner organization, participated in a plenary panel discussing occupational health and safety strategies that incorporate a gender approach that considers the needs of female workers, particularly those in industries with a high degree of potential hazards, like mining or manufacturing.
Imelda Jimenez and Carla Alvarez are two trailblazers in Mexico’s independent labour movement as members of the National Executive of the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Mexican Workers (Los Mineros). Their leadership and commitment to elevating women’s issues are guided by years of working in the auto parts and energy sectors, industries with a predominantly make workforce. Imelda and Carla were able to take part in the workshops and events organized during the USW Women’s Conference, bonding with sisters from across Canada.
While much remains to be done to dismantle systemic barriers that women face, female leaders are becoming increasingly visible in Latin America’s unions and labour movements. Many of our partners are at the forefront of this struggle, such as the National Women’s and Mining Network, in Bolivia. Jessica Farias, Project Officer with the Steelworkers Humanity Fund, had the opportunity to travel to Bolivia and attend a series of public fairs, organized by the Network in the cities of La Paz and Cochabamba, aimed at raising awareness about gender-based violence and displaying the efforts of mining cooperatives to educate the public on those issues. In Bolivia, more than 50% of women report experiencing physical or sexual violence by a partner, but only 1% of all gender-based violence cases are prosecuted and convicted.
These events demonstrated the leadership, talent and creativity of women miners and their aspirations to build communities and workplaces free of all forms of violence. Beyond Bolivia, these aspirations have a universal quality to them, which the SHF supports through projects and sister-to-sister worker exchanges.
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