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Monday, February 19, 2018

"Alianza de Campesinas" Board Member Monica Ramirez Talks Golden Globes, Farm Worker Women's Rights and Time's Up Movement

-By Emily Anderson

In a time in our country when people of all races, ethnicities and genders are finally getting some equality recognition in the United States (with gay marriage being legalized and women speaking out against sexual harassment), there are still a lot of issues that aren’t quite right. Often, society chooses to single people out who aren’t straight, white, or male.

The Time’s Up movement – a recent movement created by Hollywood women – is gaining a foothold across the country as it empowers other women across all organizations, industries and social class to take a stand and help trump sexual attackers and harassers in the work place.

Monica Ramirez was one of the guests who attended the Golden Globes award ceremony in Hollywood with actress Laura Dern in January. Intrigued by who this woman is, I wondered why she attended and how she is a part of the Time’s Up movement.


Photo courtesy of Monica's LinkedIn
Ramirez is involved in a bunch of political causes, and she is the deputy director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (L.C.L.A.A.) and a board president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Calif. Founded in 2011, this non-profit consists of membership-based organizations across the United States which collectively help farm worker women and women from farm worker families gain access to resources to help fight against sexual harassment and unequal pay.

According to its website, Alianza de Campesinas is committed to securing social, environmental, and economic justice; violence prevention; equality, and healthier work places, homes and communities for farm worker women and their families. Alianza de Campesinas members are particularly concerned with ending work place exploitation against farm worker women and all farm workers, including sexual harassment."

The Alianza de Campesinas had a letter published in Time Magazine on Nov. 10, 2017 about its opinions on the Time’s Up movement. Click here to read it (http://time.com/5018813/farmworkers-solidarity-hollywood-sexual-assault/).

A profound paragraph states: “We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen. We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Your job feeds souls, fills hearts and spreads joy. Our job nourishes the nation with the fruits, vegetables and other crops that we plant, pick and pack.”

The juxtaposition of prominent Hollywood women who started Time’s UP, working alongside equally important, less financially well-to-do women, is powerful. It goes to show that inappropriate men can act as such and can especially curb poorer women to speak the truth to protect themselves physically, financially and emotionally from future abuse.
"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."

It’s no wonder that the Hollywood women who started Time’s UP are connecting with other organizations which also have a no-holds-barred approach to giving themselves a voice. According to a recent Time article in January about Time’s UP, “Time’s Up formed a legal defense fund that currently totals $13 million in donations to help women from across the world of work to report sexual harassment or assault. The group encourages anyone to donate to the legal defense fund…”

As of today, the fund totals more than $21 million. If you'd like to donate, please click here: https://www.gofundme.com/timesup.

One of the ways Alianza de Campesinas helps farm worker women is to direct them to legal help. According to their website, legal examples are:
  • As victim advocates in civil and criminal investigations and proceedings
  • Advocacy with local, state and federal agencies on behalf of farm worker survivors of  violence to improve the level of care and responsiveness to farm worker victims and survivors' unique needs
  • Providing information and testimony to government agencies and other groups to improve laws and systems that serve farm workers
  • Educate and inform social service organizations, legal organizations, crisis centers and coalitions about special considerations for serving the farm worker population, among others
After women connect with Alianza de Campesina, what happens?

"Since Alianza is a national membership organization, we determine where the individual is located and we connect them with our member organizations for help," Ramirez said. "If there is no member organization in the area where the individual lives, we could provide the individual with information and resources (from) other organizations that can provide assistance for a range of care and assistance, depending on their needs.


"We also share general educational information with the individual to help orient her ... and what to expect when or if they decide to contact an agency. This is because some people may not know what to expect and (by) helping provide some basic information to (her), the individual feels more comfortable."


Ramirez understood from a young age that women weren't always treated well. She says as a child she knew some women who survived domestic violence. As she grew up, she realized that the same opportunities were not always equal for men and women.


She feels that there are many women's rights issues.


"At the heart of it, we must address all forms of gender equity for the benefit and best interests of our world. Women must hold equal power in politics, must be paid the same and offered the same opportunities at work and at school, and to live free of violence at work, at home and in our communities. 


"These are issues that have always existed, but in some ways seem to have been exacerbated both because the gaps between men and women are so large, but also because women are not willing to wait any longer for these issues to be resolved. We are taking matters into our own hands, for ourselves, for our families, our country and our world."


Ramirez took matters further when she attended the Golden Globes with actress Laura Dern as she was literally part of the movement. She and Dern bonded well and it was exciting for her to be with other Hollywood women are working toward ending violence against women.


"It was a really special time, which was made even better by the warm reception that we received by the other actors, individuals in the entertainment industry and the media who were there that night."


Other than being in the spotlight with Laura Dern, Ramirez has worked hard on several projects during her career. One example is when she co-authored Injustice on Our Plates when working at the Southern Poverty Law Center (located in Montgomery, Ala.), a report published in 2010 based on 150 interviews with immigrant women from Mexico and other Latin American countries. 


Most of the statistics on the Alianza de Campesinas website come mostly from the U.S. Department of Labor, and although Ramirez appreciates that the Department of Labor is one of the few agencies that conducts national studies on farm workers, she notes that the data isn't entirely broken down by gender statistics.


Ramirez' cofounder of Alianza de Campesinas is Mily Trevino-Sauceda. Ms. Trevino-Sauceda assisted with one of the first surveys in the 1980s about sexual harassment against farm worker women in California. So while most of the data is from the Department of Labor, much of its other statistics comes from her and Ms. Trevino-Sauceda's extensive knowledge they've gained over the years conducting other research on immigrant farm working women.


And while she wasn't able to attend the women's march on January 20th, she was busy attending to other equal important meetings. Other Alianza member organizations did attend marches all throughout the U.S. that day.


As for one last food for thought?


Ramirez wants to make sure that people understand that although she works to advocate for farm worker women, she knows that women across the board regardless of their background, are all connected.


"In order to end workplace sexual violence, we must also address other types of inequities that are symptoms and contributors to this problem."


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