As countries gather at the United Nations to review progress and plans for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, women workers on the U.S.-Mexico border are launching a campaign to demand federal attention and national support for women’s efforts to create jobs and security on the border. A kick-off press conference is scheduled in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, September 22, 2010. A series of actions will follow.
The conditions of women on the border are urgent because they and their families are the focal point of the poverty, violence, and discrimination generated in today’s border environment.
Border women workers are angry that few resources or policies are being directed towards solutions to problems faced by women and their families that have continued to be aggravated by governments policies.
President Obama called for $50 billion to create jobs by constructing roads, railways and runways. But they are not key employers of women.
Billions also have been committed in Social Innovation Funds, Economic Stimulus, and Broad Band.
$600 million has just been authorized for “border security”.
Yet security for whom? Seemingly, for U.S. transnationals operating maquilas and those seeking to profit from the violence and poverty in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico. Grassroots organizations, especially those led by low-income women on the border, have been excluded.
But what about security, and jobs, for women workers on the border? Why invest in infrastructure benefiting transnational corporations and not in community-led development?
For nearly two decades, first with NAFTA, and now with the “war on drugs”, border women have seen their livelihoods, their communities, and futures written off as “unfortunate but necessary casualties”, by the companies they made rich; left to live, and die, amidst the underdevelopment of the border.
Media reports confirm this abandonment, portending little opportunity for those without advanced skills and/ formal education.
Women refuse to accept this fate. All along the border, organized, fierce and resilient, they pursue their own version of security and employment. La Mujer Obrera in El Paso is one example.
Through our daycare, restaurant, festival marketplace, museum, media center, education programs, micro enterprise incubator, and artisan import company, we are creating genuine border security.
And like La Mujer Obrera, there are other communities of low income women on the border, who have the vision and drive needed to create spaces where cultural arts and grassroots micro enterprises can flourish, restoring economy, pride, and dignity in their neighborhoods.
Yet, the women find themselves fighting their hardest battle ever – sustainability in the weakest U.S. economy in decades and a future being designed without them.
Local and national media have focused on border violence and security issues, but have missed the solutions that border women stand ready to implement once they are provided with a meaningful investment.
We call on President Obama and our Congressional representatives 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.
As Gloria Steinem said when she visited La Mujer Obrera, “There is no safe space for women. We have to create that space. We have to build that community”.
The conditions of women on the border are urgent, and La Mujer Obrera and other women’s organizations on the border are demanding justice and equity now.
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