March 8, 2010
Above: Panel at the 2010 "Women's and Labour Rights in a time of crisis" Colloquium
Yesterday, on March 7, over 1,000 maquila and domestic workers came together in Managua, Nicaragua to discuss the impact of the global economic crisis on the lives of women workers and to develop proposals to government to guarantee their rights.
Poster from the Honduran women's campaign
Co-sponsored by the Maria Elena Cuadra Women's Movement (MEC) and the Maquila Solidarity Network (MSN), the 12th annual Colloquium was organized around the theme "Women's and Labour Rights in a Time of Crisis." In addition to delegates from MEC chapters throughout the country, unions, government and industry joined the forum, as did representatives of women's labour rights groups from Mexico and Honduras and from international garment brands.
Today, on the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, women's organizations in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, including many of our colleagues working in the maquila sector, are organizing a series of activities under the slogan "Celebrating Our Victories / Demanding Our Rights." One of the central themes this year is violence against women. Women organizers want to bring more attention to the terrible reality of femicide.
The women of Colectivo Obreras Insumisas
Meanwhile our sisters at Colectivo Obreras Insumisas (Collective of Rebellious Women Workers), a collective of indigenous maquila workers based in Tehuacan, Mexico are holding an IWD film festival highlighting the struggles of women workers.
Since International Women's Day (IWD) was first proclaimed at the second International Conference of Working Women in1910, IWD has been closely linked to the struggles of women garment workers.
On March 8, we commemorate the 1912 textile workers' strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where women strikers adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses" - We want bread, and roses too." In Managua this year the slogan was "Trabajo Sí, pero con Dignidad" [We want work, but with Dignity].
On March 8, we honour the 140 women garment workers who lost their lives in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City where the lack of health and safety measures and locked factory exits forced the young immigrant women to jump from factory windows to their deaths to escape the flames.
Garib & Garib factory, Bangladesh
Unfortunately, these tragedies are not behind us. Today we also mourn the tragic and clearly preventable deaths of 24 garment workers, the majority of them women, who were killed in a fire at the Garib & Garib factory on February 25, 2010 in Bangladesh. As in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire almost a century earlier, locked factory exits prevented the workers from escaping their burning factory.
March 8th is day to honour the women who died in these tragedies, but most important it's a day to celebrate women and women's struggles and creativity. On this historic 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, MSN reaffirms our commitment to the struggle for women's labour rights and to continue organizing to eliminate labour rights abuses in the garment and other industries. Jobs, yes, but jobs with dignity.