Iris Munguia, first woman Coordinator of COLSIBA

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Iris Munguia was appointed Coordinator at COLSIBA during the COLSIBA XI Conference in August this year. She is the first woman to be elected to lead COLSIBA since its foundation in 1993. Iris' election into this prominent position illustrates the great progress Latin American unions have made in terms of gender representation.

Women workers in Latin American banana trade face many challenges. They are often subject to sexual harassment and labour discrimination, as they are seen to be unreliable workers. Those who do secure jobs are forced to leave their children at home in order to earn a living, and in some Latin American countries the wage women receive will be significantly less than their male counterparts. Progress in addressing this discrimination has been stunted by the fact that woman have been severely under-represented in unions.

COLSIBA (the Regional Coordination of Latin American Banana & Agro-Industrial Workers' Unions) represents trade unions in eight countries and supports more than 45,000 workers. Two other individuals, Gilbert Bermudez (Deputy Co-ordinator), and Adela Torres (Co-ordinator of Women and Labour), have also been elected and along with Iris they form the executive committee of COLSIBA.

Iris brings to this position a wealth of knowledge on the challenges faced by women workers in Latin America. She has experience as both a banana worker and union organiser and has advocated for over 30 years for labour, human and women's rights. Iris has worked as Co-ordinator of the women's secretariat for COSIBAH (Coordinating Body of Banana and Agro-Industrial Workers of Honduras) and currently plays an active role in the World Banana Forum on the Coordinating Committee of the Labour Rights Working Group.

It is hoped that with Iris as Coordinator, women workers' rights will be better respected. COLSIBA have already organised a Global Meeting of Women Banana Workers, which will take place in Ecuador in February 2012, where women workers will be invited to share their experiences of discrimination, and discuss how unions can help. The findings will be shared at the Second Conference of the World Banana Forum, which takes place just a few days later.

Read more about the problems women face in the banana industry.