War on Want
Prospect has worked with War on Want on two major projects.
Honduras - women in sweatshops
This project was undertaken in May 2009 by Clare Hawkes, a development advocate in Prospect's HSE Branch.
Following a request from War on Want and supported by Prospect's NEC, Clare joined a delegation to Honduras to participate in a conference organised by War on Want partner, CODEMUH (Honduran Women's Collective).
Part of the trip was spent meeting women employed in sweatshops who, as a result of their the abysmal working conditions in the vast sweatshops of Honduras, suffer from crippling muscular skeletal disorders.
Guatemala - Mayan child labour
To raise awareness of the Mayan child labour in Guatemala, the Forensic Science Branch undertook a fundraising campaign in April 2009 for War on Want's project partner in that country, Conrado de la Cruz. They raised £1,340.
Conrado de la Cruz works with women and girls in some of the poorest areas of Guatemala City. Its principal objective is to improve the livelihoods of Mayan girl workers via education and campaigning. Conrado de la Cruz provides services for 700 Mayan girl workers in Guatemala City and three rural areas.
On 24 October 2008, Prospect hosted a meeting with War on Want and a partner organisation, Asociacion Conrado de La Cruz from Guatemala, who shared their approach to eliminating the worst forms of child labour.
Chaired by Prospect's head of research Sue Ferns, the meeting included a very moving talk by an ex-child worker, Ofelia Chiroy Sebaquijay. Conrado supported Ofelia and helped her return to education; she is now a member of a child-led committee in her local community.
Julian Oyales, Co-ordinator of Conrado and Elizabeth Carrera, a previous Director of the NGO, explained how child labour in Guatemala is often "invisible". But there are an estimated 1.2 million child workers - 25% of the workforce. Around 400,000 children get no form of basic education because they are either "street children" or child workers in the informal sectors of agriculture (coffee, sugar and bananas), or other areas such as domestic work, fruit packing or shoe shining.
They said discrimination against and exploitation of girls and the minority ethnic Mayan peoples was clearly evident throughout all sectors.
Julian explained that in 1996, the trade union movement in Guatemala was literally wiped out when the leadership was either killed or exiled. He appealed for support, not only for on-the-ground projects, but also at a government level where issues such as child labour need addressing. Issues ranging from the new trade agreements with Europe, to multinational company activities in the agricultural sectors undermining food and water security were discussed.
The group heard that often the first step in dealing with the children is to help them negotiate the right to have time off to play - this is followed by addressing issues with employers, parents and local authorities that range from health care to education.
Prospect's NEC subsequently agreed a motion on labour in Guatemala for submission to the Women's TUC Conference.
- For more information, see War on Want's project website.