Monday, April 14, 2008

No to sex harassment

No to sex harassment
By SUNITA VIJAYAN, The Salinas Californian
April 8, 2008

Their voices are not often heard.

But for some Monterey County farm-worker women, the silence about ongoing sexual assaults in their workplace stops now.

On Monday afternoon, two farm-worker advocacy groups - California Rural Legal Assistance and Lideres Campesinas - kicked off 'The Bandana Project: 'No' to Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in the Fields' with a display of decorated bandanas at La Plaza Bakery, 20 N. Sanborn Road, Salinas. The project is being coordinated by The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based nonprofit legal organization that promotes civil rights.

The display of bandanas decorated by women who say they've experience sexual assault will rotate through four other locations, including Soledad and Greenfield, through May 7.

The month-long project is focused on raising awareness of sexual violence and harassment against women farm workers and bringing it to an end.

Many of the women use clothing, including bandanas, to hide their faces and bodies at the fields in hopes of staving off sexual harassment. In tribute, about 30 women in the project have decorated white bandanas with messages signifying their opposition.

The bandanas, with simple, empowering messages and images standing starkly against the white-colored cloth, covered one wall inside the bakery.

In one of the displays, green-colored eyes were drawn peeking out from a blue bandana. Underneath the drawing were words in Spanish that read: 'I don't need to hide my face to get respect.'

'(Sexual harassment and assault) happens a lot,' said Marcela Zamora, an administrative and legal assistant with CRLA, 'but unfortunately for the women, it takes a lot for them to come out.'

According to CRLA, 90 percent of farm-worker women surveyed throughout the state noted sexual harassment as a significant issue.

Michael Marsh, a Salinas-based attorney with CRLA and director of the Agriculture Workers Health Program, said a third of the cases he handles involve sexual harassment of farm-worker women. Assaults usually occur in the fields, Marsh said, and can come from coworkers, supervisors and even company owners.

'A lot of the women don't know their rights, or are afraid to come forward and lose their jobs,' he said. 'I think in some ways, the feminist movement occurred in the cities, but passed the fields.'

Displays for 'The Bandana Project: 'No' to Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in the Fields,' a project denouncing sexual assault on farm-worker women in Monterey County, will be shown at the following locations:
LA PLAZA BAKERY: Today through Friday, 20 N. Sanborn Road, Salinas.

VALLE VERDE MIGRANT HEAD START: April 14 through 18, 490 El Camino Real, Greenfield.
CLINICA DE SALUD DEL VALLE DE SALINAS: April 21 through 25, 219 N. Sanborn Road, Salinas.
CLINICA DE SALUD DEL VALLE DE SALINAS: April 28 through May 2, 799 Front St., Soledad.
CALIFORNIA RURAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE: May 5 through 9, 3 Williams Road, Salinas.

1 comment:

Patricia Lopez said...

Angela, Thank you for posting this article. This is definitely a major issue that we don't see written about enough.

For anyone wanting to know more, check out the article: "Changing Constructions of Sexuality and Risk: Migrant Mexican Women Farmworkers in California" by Xochitl Castaneda and Patricia Zavella.

The women who participated were from the Salinas area as well as the San Joaquin Valley.