The hot sun hits their bodies with its intense heat as they pick the food we will eat. This work consists of a lot of strength and patience. Migrant farmworker women are 32% of the agricultural workforce in the US. They are usually paid less and are the main providers for their families. In addition to this, women are exposed to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and pesticides in the fields. Pesticides cause miscarriages, birth defects, infertility, and cancer. Equally important, children work in the fields to help their families because their parents make less than $9 an hour. In other words, children are responsible for feeding us while they are exposed to pesticides.
Migrant farmworker women
Female farmworkers go to work dressed in big clothes to look like men. By looking like men, they hope to avoid being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by their supervisors and colleagues. According to the National Farmworker Ministry, 80% of women had experienced sexual harassment in the Central Valley. In Fresno, thousands of women were forced to put up with sexual harassment to avoid being fired. Their supervisors take advantage of their undocumented status. Women are afraid they will be deported if they report their supervisors. It is also important to note that female farmworkers are fired for reporting sexual harassment. This prevents women from speaking up because this is their only source of income.
Moreover, The Bandanna Project was founded by Monica Ramirez in 2007. This project is to bring awareness to farmworker women being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted in the fields. The purpose is to decorate white bandannas to support and show solidarity to farmworker women. A white bandanna symbolizes sexual exploitation among female farmworkers.
Children are farmworkers. Any child under 12 and over 12 are allowed to work in the fields. In 1938, child farmworkers were excluded from labor protections under federal labor laws. With a special waiver, children can legally work in the fields. It is estimated that 500,00 to 800,000 farmworkers are children under 18. Because of this, children struggle to stay and finish school. In the middle of the school year, child farmworkers transfer to new schools in different states. As a result, this causes them to fall behind or leave school. According to the Center for Farmworker Families, only 10% of farmworkers’ children graduate high school. Instead of devoting their time to school, they have to devote their time to the fields.
Furthermore, working in the fields is exposing migrant children to toxic pesticides while they are still developing. Pesticides and the stress of the job harms a child’s physical health and mental health. Children can develop cancer and behavioral issues due to pesticides. During the pandemic, the federal government issued new visas for Central American immigrants to work as farmworkers. Since a lot of immigrant children are coming to the US alone, working in the fields seems to be their only option.
Farmworkers are exploited
Migrant farmworker women and children deserve justice and protections in the fields. They provide for their families and for us. Women should not have to fear the idea of going to work. Laws need to be set in place to protect them from sexual violence in the fields. There is no reason why farmworkers should be exploited. Migrant children should be allowed to prioritize school instead of the fields. Their parents need to be paid a living wage, so they do not have to rely on their children to work in the fields. The state and federal governments should not exploit immigrants nor their children. Immigration reform is needed so farmworkers are not exploited for being undocumented. Since they are essential workers, their human rights are also essential.