International Women’s Day: Reflections from Colombia
Colombia TRADE UNIONS FOR WOMEN
International Women’s Day with Adela Torres
“Let’s make the 8th of March a day of demands”. Respect, justice and equity.
Last Sunday, March 6th, the National Union of Workers in Agricultural Industries (Sintrainagro) held a mass meeting of women in the municipality of Apartadó, as part of the celebration of International Women’s Day. La Rel talked to Adela Torres, national General Secretary of the Union.
-What is your verdict on last Sunday’s meeting?
-It was a very good meeting, with a great gathering of women who packed the local union hall.
It was very important because several of the women taking part highlighted the difficulties they face in their everyday lives as women, mothers and workers.
There was a valuable discussion about the challenges that we women still face in our search for equal rights, especially in the workplace and, in this region particularly, in regard to living conditions and health.
-Since you embarked on union work back in 2001, what has changed, and what changes are still needed in relation to women’s rights?
-In those 15 years the greatest change I have seen is in the attitude of working women themselves.
Back then, women comrades were still afraid to talk about their problems and to demand their rights.
That has changed: the women of this banana-producing region (and they are many) have gradually lost their fear and shyness, and are asserting themselves, claiming their rights, not only in the workplace but also in society at large.
So many years of training and work by Sintrainagro in gender politics is producing positive results for our region. Nowadays women can speak out and say: “Here we are and this is what we want”.
There is still a long way to go, particularly in terms of job creation, housing and more comprehensive health-care coverage, but we have come a long way.
Women for whom the struggle never ends
-This region has a high number of female-headed households. How do they deal with this situation?
-In the banana-producing region of Urabá, 71% of women are heads of households, as a consequence of the displacement of men due to unemployment or periods of violence. Many women have been left widowed.
We are working in partnership with the municipal authorities on programmes focusing on these women and seeking, among other things, to bring them into the labour market and to offer them vocational training.
Apartadó town council is open to developing projects that will benefit women within their community and assist in their personal and social development.
-What message would you send women today?
-We should not see the 8th of March as a celebration: it should, rather, be a day to highlight our demands and our daily struggle for our rights, which are there, which exist on paper, but which need to become reality.
The 8th of March should highlight women’s daily struggle for better working and living conditions.
Respect, justice and equity
10th March 2016