After 10 Days, Border Women to End Hunger Strike
‘The Shroud of Invisibility Has been Ripped Apart’
For Immediate Release November 16, 2010
Washington, D.C. – Eleven women living in the U.S.-Mexico border, the most impoverished region of this nation, launched a hunger strike in front of the White House November 8, 2010, at noon, to call attention to economic conditions in the region and grassroots development efforts led by women’s organizations. On Wednesday, November 17, at 11:00 the women will make the final action of the hunger strike, followed by a closing ceremony in front of the White House, leading up to the women’s first bites of solid food at noon and a press conference.
The U.S.-Mexico border, poorer still than Appalachia, has been economically abandoned for centuries, most recently as a result of international trade agreements, border security initiatives, anti-immigrant sentiment and the war on drugs. But border women are not victims; they are rebuilding their communities with dignified courage. They are exercising the right to determine their own destiny and work towards the meaningful development of their communities to improve the quality of life of their children and grandchildren.
The border women, many of them mothers and grandmothers, fasted in front of the White House to call on our country’s leaders to acknowledge: that the border region is the most impoverished in the nation; that it parallels Appalachia in its concentrated poverty spread across state lines; and that it warrants meaningful attention by federal agencies and private resources, so that future generations of border residents can enjoy an improved quality of life.
They are calling for development that is led by the community itself, based on family and community needs such as education for youth and adults, culturally appropriate nutrition and health education, local agriculture, and fair trade with our brothers and sisters across the border.
A full press statement from the women will be posted November 17 at noon EST.
- WHAT: Border women final action and breaking of hunger strike.
- WHERE: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in front of White House.
- WHEN: Hunger strike lasted 24 hours each day as of November 8 at noon. Closing actions start at 11 a.m., November 17.
- Press Contact: Rubi Orozco. 915-203-0022. email@example.com facebook.com/mujerobrera twitter.com/MujerObrera
- Petition to President Obama: http://www.petition2congress.com/2/3639
Text of Letter to First Lady Michelle Obama Delivered November 15
First Lady Michelle Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20500
Dear First Lady,
We, border women workers, bear witness to the vision, integrity, and commitment you have displayed towards women’s and family issues in health, development, and education. We appreciate that a woman of your caliber is in the White House, providing insight and leadership for the women of our nation, and the world.
We ask that you or your representative meet with us immediately, because 30 minutes of your time will have profound impact on the potential opportunities and futures of women, their families and their organizations in the border region.
We are women living in the U.S.-Mexico border, the most impoverished region of this nation – poorer still than Appalachia. Our communities have been economically abandoned for centuries, most recently as a result of international trade agreements, border security initiatives, anti-immigrant sentiment and policies and the war on drugs. But we are not victims; we are rebuilding our communities with dignified courage. As women, we know we have and are exercising, the right to determine our own destiny and work towards the meaningful development of our communities to improve the quality of life of our children and grandchildren.
For eight days we have been at your door, fasting to protest our invisibility. For too long we have lived with the invisibility of our conditions, as well as the solutions we have been implementing for 30 years. We can no longer afford to be invisible, for the sake of our people.
When President Kennedy toured Appalachia in the 1960s, he was deeply moved by the dire poverty of its residents and quickly moved to support the Appalachian Regional Commission (arc.gov), charging it with lifting Appalachian residents out of poverty by investing in community health, education, development, and energy projects.
We call on our country’s leaders to acknowledge what the data shows: that the border region is the most impoverished in the nation; that it parallels Appalachia in its concentrated poverty spread across state lines; and that it warrants meaningful attention by federal agencies and private resources, so that future generations of border residents can enjoy an improved quality of life.
For too long we were treated as machines, as part of the garment factories that dotted our cities. We do not see development as the next set of factories that will come to our communities and pollute it while using us for cheap labor. We want development that is led by the community itself, based on family and community needs such as education for youth and adults, culturally appropriate nutrition and health education, local agriculture, and fair trade with our brothers and sisters across the border. We consider that to be genuine development, genuine border security.
We have been working to build that already. To date, we have a daycare, café, fair trade import company, and a 40,000 square foot Mexican marketplace all of which integrate the cultural, fair trade, health, and sustainability principles that we want to live by. Our daycare, for example, is bilingual and bicultural; serves food prepared from scratch and rooted in the healthful Mesoamerican diet; and has a vegetable and fruit patch where the children learn about food and caring for the earth.
Everything we do, we do with the intention to nurture our children and grandchildren. That is our bottom line, and it is the reason we – as mothers and grandmothers – sit at your door on hunger strike.
We know there are other women’s organizations such as ours working towards sustainable development of the border. But all of us—the women’s organizations on the border–have been doing it basically alone, fighting against the currents of public policy, media coverage, public sentiment and public and private funding for too long. When virtually all the resources coming to the border region are focused on building walls, placing more agents between us and our families across the border, and enriching security firms that always seem to benefit when there is instability anywhere in the world, our work to provide safe, dignified spaces and jobs where people can develop themselves as human beings becomes not only secondary, but invisible.
We urge you or your representative to meet with us immediately. If you allow us to tell you about our vision, we know we will no longer be invisible. Border women embody a resilience and vision that we know will resonate with you.
We also want to bring you and your staff to our border communities as soon as your schedule allows it. We urge you to have your staff work with us to identify a mutually appropriate time in the near future for such a visit. Like Kennedy, you will be deeply moved by conditions as well as the grassroots solutions being designed and developed there.
To arrange for our meeting and your visit to El Paso, please contact us at our cell phone on the hunger strike line 915-478-0823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With utmost respect,
Border Women Hunger Strike 2010
Text of Letter to President Obama Delivered at Start of Hunger Strike
November 8 2010
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
Today, we, representatives of El Paso women whose families span the US Mexico border and who have experienced first hand the violence, poverty and unemployment engulfing the border region, are launching a hunger strike in front of the White House at noon.
We border women have had enough of the violent tragedy in Ciudad Juarez and the profound poverty in El Paso. Along with other women on the border, we are creating long term security through grassroots economic development of our communities, which have been dismissed as “unfortunate but necessary casualties” of international trade and immigration policies and the ”war on drugs.”
But our accomplishments and plans are now at profound risk because of a lack of federal investment.
We call on you and your Administration to establish immediate and long-term strategies of community-led development in the nation’s poorest region, the Southwest Border.
Billions have been authorized for jobs benefitting mostly men in the construction industry and border. U.S. transnationals operating maquilas and those seeking to profit from the region’s violence and poverty are reaping millions. Yet the border struggles with persistent poverty (now exceeding 30% of the general population), 10%+ unemployment, and even higher rates for women workers and their families.
In response, we border women have pursued our own version of security and employment, on both sides of the border. La Mujer Obrera’s social enterprise daycare, restaurant, festival marketplace in El Paso and network of artisans in Mexico exemplify border women creating jobs and wanting to break the cycles of poverty and violence.
Furthermore, we and other women’s organizations on the border have extensive plans for comprehensive development including:
- Creation of jobs and businesses and sustainable community economic development motors
- Workforce training and life long learning linked to enhanced adult functional literacy
- Education embedded within a supportive community and family environment for infants through advanced college studie
- Promotion of, and full access to, comprehensive preventive and primary healtheducation and services
- Food security that links urban and rural communities, and ties health and nutrition education to access to culturally appropriate affordable local food sources
- Access to multi-media technology infrastructure and capacity building that bridges the “digital divide” engulfing Latino and low-income families and communities, especially on the border
- Building and rehabbing affordable housing and community infrastructure,supportive of myriad family and community formats (single family, multi-family, senior, mixed income, etc), but engendering healthy and sustainable family and community dynamics and using cutting-edge sustainable green design and construction strategies
- Arts and culture that celebrates creativity while nurturing individual and community growth and understanding
- Civic engagement that underscores the critical linkage between an informed involved populace and a healthy sustainable community development process
- Diverse modes of transportation that foster communities and promote health and environmental security.
But to achieve these plans and sustain our existing development efforts, an immediate investment is needed.
Funding for the implementation of the Southwest Border Regional Commission, which was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, urgently needs to be appropriated. However we understand the funding challenges that you and Congress face, after the results of November 2nd elections.
For those reasons, as critical next steps towards that ultimate goal, we seek your immediate action to
1) Organize a national summit to identify public-private initiatives in support of border women’s efforts to restore their communities from the damaging effects of international trade and immigration policies, and the current “war on drugs” and for the eventual implementation of the Southwest Border Regional Commission .
2) Provide urgently needed economic sustainability support for women and their organizations whose development achievements and future plans are now in jeopardy
Women’s conditions on the border are urgent, and we are demanding justice and equity now. It’s not just about La Mujer Obrera in El Paso, Texas. This is a struggle by women on the border, and our right to a better future for our community.
Materials on border conditions, the women hunger strikers and the proposed Border Development Commission available at lamujerobrera.wordpress.com or upon request.