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Changing Communities, Changing the World

April 19, 2010

I recently watched the documentary film Stolen Childhoods, an exposé on global child labor. The movie is, unsurprisingly, sobering, but I enjoyed it because the viewer is given clear instructions on how to work to end child labor (buying Fair Trade products, for example) and introduced to those who are working every day to end this egregious human rights violation. I was struck by how many women were featured in the film as community leaders, and I wanted to highlight their work here.

A young girl shovels instead of studying (photo via noesunjoc on flickr)

Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya spoke, and was, as always, eloquent and moving. If you have not yet read Elizabeth’s article from last week about Professor Maathai’s work, she gives a great summary of the inspirational leader’s life and accomplishments.

Lourdes C. Pacheco Ladron de Guevara (listed in the film as Lourdes Pacheco) spoke about the plight of indigenous Mexican families who travel to tobacco fields where they produce crops for multinational corporations like Philip Morris while earning a few dollars a day. Dr. Pacheco is a researcher at The Autonomous University of Nayarit, in Mexico, and has authored several articles about gender and labor including this one about Wirrarika Women who migrate to Northern Mexico and the US.

Patricia Diaz Romo, another Mexican woman, helped found AICAW (which stands for Association for Investigation, Training and Assistance to the Wixaraka) in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1983 to help Huichol Indians. In 1994 she produced the documentary “Huicholes and Pesticides” to show the detrimental health effects the pesticides in tobacco fields were wreaking on the uneducated, poor (and therefore voiceless in the global community) Indians. You can read more about her work on the website of Huicholes and Pesticides.

Inderjit Khurana has educated hundreds of children in India by bringing the classroom to them. She started one day by walking to a nearby railway where children were known to live, and worked to engage the children until they began to feel comfortable. She started the Ruchika Social Service Organization (RSSO) in 1985 to end child labor and promote education as a priority for all children.

Apart from Professor Maathai, these women have not received much international attention, and they certainly have not received much monetary support. They began working to change their own communities, and the ripple effect of their education, awareness, and advocacy has contributed to the global shift towards equality and fair opportunity that we all work to promote. Changing the world is too much for one person, but we can all work to change our communities and thus contribute to this global fight.

One Comment
  1. Sharon permalink
    April 19, 2010 10:35 am

    Thank you so much for naming these specific women. It is not uncommon for individual women to do amazing and life changing work their communities and never receive ANY recognition. Bring it on!

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