Throughout the pandemic, there's been an outpouring of public support for essential workers. But this has largely excluded migrant women farmworkers, despite their vital role in keeping food on American families tables.

Monica Ramirez is working to change that.

''I'm the first generation in my family that didn't have to work in the fields to make a living,'' Ramorez told me. ''So I was raised to be part of the this movement and fight on behalf of my community.''

Ramirez founded Justice for Migrant Women after creating the first legal project in the United States dedicated to addressing gender discrimination against farmworker women. That legal project became Esperanza : The Immigrant Women's Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

She witnessed firsthand the inequalities in the agricultural industry that migrant women farmworkers particularly vulnerable.

ONE in four farmworker are women, but Ramirez said that studies on the health risks of pesticide exposure have typically focused only on men. On top of the risks of pesticides to everyone, hundreds and thousands of women farmworkers face particular threats to their reproductive health and to their children.

Pesticides have been linked to poor birth outcomes, congenital anomalies, developmental deficits, and childhood tumors.

Current federal safeguards to address these inequalities are inadequate, according to Ramirez and other farmworker advocates. In many cases, the federal government isn't even collecting the data it would need to strengthen those protections.

The National Agricultural Worker Survey, conducted by the Department of Labor, collects demographic, employment, and health data face-to-face interviews with farmworkers throughout the country.

But it doesn't disaggregate its data by gender, which makes policymaking and advocacy difficult.

''When we don't know the real experiences of women migrant farmworkers,'' said Raimrex. ''It makes it even more challenging for us to do the the work to try and improve those conditions.''

The US Department of Agriculture's Farm Labor Survey also fails to make gender data available to the public. The survey is used to produce the annual Farm Labor Report which, among other things, helps establish wages under the H2-A temporary agricultural worker program.

Without gender-specific information, it is difficult to understand the full scope of the gender wage gap among migrant farmworkers, which in turn makes it difficult for organizers to mobilize around specific demands.

Ramirez managed to obtain the USDA's raw survey data and disaggregated it herself, finding the wage gap between men and women farmworkers to be about $5,000 annually.

The World Students Society thanks Rebekah Entralgo. The Essay excerpted : ''Support for Essential Labor Has Largely Excluded Migrant Women Farmworkers. [Commondreams-org]


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