By Valeria Ramirez
Farmworkers Awareness Week is this week and is currently taking place in our UI campus and other campuses around the United States. This week is to inform other about the dangers and sacrifices that farmworkers have endured. Especially informing the public about the Bandana Project. The main issue that the Bandana Project is handling today is about women who work in the fields and spending hours in the blistering sun picking whatever is in season. As a woman working in the fields, there are many dangers that can occur from dealing with harsh temperatures, underpaid dangerous work, and sadly, they encounter many forms of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse amongst the farmworker industry is surprisingly common and it’s heartbreaking to hear that many women undergo this treatment. They work day in and day out, doing whatever it takes to feed their families, pay their bills, and support themselves. The working conditions are horrendous and many work for 8 hours non-stop, no breaks or time to rest. Many abusers prey on these women knowing that they can’t do anything to stop them. Some of these abusers work in the fields with them or are supervisors themselves. The supervisors believe that they have some entitlement over these women, which makes them certain that they can get away with whatever they want. Sadly, they hold their power over these women because they know that some migrated illegally or they will be automatically fired if they don’t do whatever they say. This prohibits women from speaking out and taking action because their afraid to lose their job and income. No one should be treated in this manner or should be blackmailed for sexual favors.
Many farming industries try to handle this problem by sending their supervisors into sexual harassment training. While other farming companies just make their employees sign a document stating that they won’t harass any of the employees who work there. These types of initiatives or “solutions” don’t work or fix the problem, they just mask it. Without the help of the industry, or anyone else, these women have no choice but to fend for themselves. Which they do so perfectly well by wearing bandanas to cover their faces. This method allows them to hide their facial features so anyone who tries to assault them won’t have any idea which gender they are. This allows these women to continue with their work without facing sexual assault.
This method sparked a movement in which anyone who has faced sexual abuse while working in the fields can seek legal aid to put these abusers in their place. As a collective audience, we must use this information and make sure that others are aware of the Bandana Project and the countless sexual assault that happens in the fields. Take action and make sure that you speak for those who are silent. There are multiple ways of helping these women and one way is to start campaigns or informational sessions about the project. Every year on our UI campus
around the final weeks of March the Office of Multicultural Affairs and College Assistant Migrant Program (CAMP) hosts the Farmworkers Awareness Week where there is a day when anyone can draw on a bandana to show their support for the cause. If we stay quiet then the problem still persists we must take action to fight against those who continue to sexual abuse women who are trying to make ends meet. To learn more about the project click here.