Ecuador is the world’s largest banana producing country. However, women represent only 5% of this workforce because they are viewed as 'high cost, high risk' employees. Women workers face discrimination, harassment, and multiple health and safety risks, and are often unaware of their rights and how to defend them. This is exasperated by trade union discrimination; less than 5% of Ecuadorian agro-industrial workers are organised.
FENACLE, Ecuador’s National Federation of Agro-industrial Workers and Small Farmers, has 2,000 banana and sugar worker members, of whom 10% are women. Nine out of 36 union leaders on its Executive Committee are women, including a Women's Officer, but due to funding constraints none of them are paid for their union activities. FENACLE is a member of COLSIBA and it’s Women’s Committee, and through this, are members of the WBF however, FENACLE's Women’s Officer has limited capacity to represent the union within these regional/international platforms.
We have supported FENACLE for many years. We were delighted in 2015 to secure three years of funding for this programme to continue enabling the increased organisation of women workers in banana and sugar production, the empowerment of more women in leadership roles, and negotiation of gender clauses in collective bargaining agreements.
Funding from union affiliation fees and international trade union solidarity have already made a significant impact. GMB ISF funds have supported FENACLE's Women's Officer to lead the union's work to:
- achieve an increase in women's membership in the union at the local level
- increase education activities and produce publications on subjects relevant to women, to help raise awareness and overcome the cultural barriers to women entering salaried employment in rural communities
- successfully negotiate specific gender clauses in two CBAs
- empower women in leadership roles through increasing participation of women in the FENACLE Executive Committee, to support the work of the Women's Secretary locally
- create women's committees in each local organisation, to collaborate with the Women's Secretariat at the national level of FENACLE
Notably, in the recent Ecuadorian elections, an increase in women's involvement in the electoral processes has been important in defending the changes achieved in favour of women workers.
The charitable foundation of UIA Insurance in partnership with the GMB trade union have recently provided funding to support FENACLE's Women's Officer to carry out her invaluable work for 3 more years!
FENACLE website (in Spanish)