Women trade unionists and small producers from the banana industry in Latin America, the Windward Islands, Ghana and Cameroon will meet on February 24 and 25 to exchange their experiences within the household, workforce and labour movement. This meeting will precede the second global conference of the World Banana Forum (WBF) in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on 28 and 29 February.
Women banana workers face many challenges. Fewer and fewer women are being employed in the industry – in some countries less than 8% of the workforce are female ‐ as they are seen to be temporary and ‘high cost’ workers. In many banana exporting countries women are often single heads of households and are forced to leave their children at home in order to earn a living. The wage women receive can also be significantly less than their male counterparts. Progress in addressing discrimination has been stunted by the fact that woman have been severely under‐represented in unions. Iris Munguia, Coordinator of COLSIBA (the Coordinating Body of Latin America Banana and Agro‐industrial workers) states: ‘Women trade unionists and small producers have high expectations of this meeting. They consider the dialogue between women working in banana plantations on different continents to be of paramount significance as a medium to learn about their social and labour union issues while building joint work strategies to improve their quality of life.’
On February 26 the meeting will extend to involve the participation of wider stakeholders including representatives of multinational fruit companies, supermarkets, certification bodies and consumer organisations, enabling multi‐stakeholder dialogue on, and proposals towards, the improvement of conditions for women across the global banana industry.
Iris continues, ‘The meeting will also provide a unique opportunity to talk with representatives of the plantation owners for whom these women work. This dialogue offers the opportunity to develop as Common Agenda to address and solve the identified problems that affect women on a global level. Given that women have always shown a willingness towards dialogue and a sense of responsibility to comply with the agreements that result from this dialogue, this meeting promises to be very fruitful.’