Women Workers' Committee
Founded in 1997 to combat labor violations against women in the sweatshops of Guatemala City, the Women Workers’ Committee now fights for women’s rights on and off the factory floor. The Committee works to meet urgent needs in the community of Bárcenas, a makeshift and marginalized neighborhood on the edge of Guatemala City, and to advance the rights of women and young people through programs to promote health and well-being of women and children in the workplace, school and community.
Health Care for All
Women and families in Barcenas have almost no access to health or dental care.
The Women Workers’ Committee therefore partners with MADRE to organize health fairs, where community members receive dental care, vision tests and pap smears.
MADRE’s Helping Hands program provides dental hygiene supplies, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash for the health fairs, and the Women Workers’ Committee instructs women and children in proper dental hygiene.
The Women Workers’ Committee provides a safe and supportive space for women to discuss sexual and psychological abuses that occur in their homes and workplaces. The Committee runs educational programs for community members that focus on sexual and reproductive rights. MADRE supplies condoms, personal lubricant and educational materials for the women who attend these workshops.
Labor Rights and Literacy
Many of the women in Barcenas migrated to the neighborhood in order to work in local sweatshops, where labor rights violations are common. The Committee hosts trainings for maquila workers, addressing workplace violations and informing women of their rights as workers. The Committee also documents violations and pursues legal remedies for women workers.
Because Spanish is a second language for many of the Indigenous women in Barcenas, the Women Workers’ Committee provides Spanish instruction as well as computer literacy courses. These programs are designed for both youth and adults. Currently, the literacy programs boast 5,500 women, children, and young adults (2,500 adult women, 1,000 girls and boys, 2,000 young adults, male and female).
In the past decade, nearly 5,000 women and young girls have been murdered in Guatemala. Many of them, including girls as young as 10, were tortured and raped, their bodies left in public places. In Bárcenas, there are no street lights and no reliable police protection. Women and girls who work in factories are often forced to stay late and risk their safety by walking home in the dark.
In response to the murders, the Women Workers’ Committee has created neighborhood watch groups. MADRE is providing the group with flashlights and whistles to distribute to women as an additional safety measure.
MUIXIL is a Guatemalan organization that focuses on the political, economic, and cultural rights of Ixil Mayan and other Indigenous women in Guatemala.
The mission of MUIXIL is to strengthen the Ixil community in Ixil country, a historically isolated Mayan farming community located in the northernmost outcrop of the Guatemala Highlands.
Muixil works to advance food sovereignty in El Quiché, where hunger and malnutrition are prevalent. In partnership with MADRE, Muixil provides chickens to Indigenous women, enhancing diets by making protein sources readily available. The project provides a sustainable source of income for the women and their families, as the meat and eggs can be sold in local markets.
Muixil is working with the women from the community to create a weaving cooperative. The cooperative will be a place for Ixil women to share traditional weaving practices with a younger generation of women, strengthening the Ixil culture and community. These instructive sessions also allow the cooperative to standardize the type and quality of the goods the women sell, enabling women to get a higher market value for their work.