Thursday, October 31, 2013

Perfectly Pertinent

As to the great mass of working girls and women, how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of freedom for the factory, sweatshop, department store or office?
Emma Goldman

I love this quote. A few sentences that encompass a solid universal truth is the hallmark of a talented writer, and woman. As Ms. Goldman notes, sweatshops and factories are confining work environments, offering economic advancement for only a select few administrative staff and often absentee owners. These type of work environments are not limited to Central America. Stories abound in international news of the health hazards and hardships of factories that produce most of our clothing and accessories.
I'm going to spin this blog post in a direction that you might not have anticipated. I'm going to argue that our Finding Freedom through Friendship mothers would be thrilled to have a factory job. If they qualified for employment at a Guatemalan factory (which they would not, because most of them do not speak Spanish), Maria, Catarina, Candalaria and all of the other 15 mothers in our program would be enthusiastic employees. They would be first in line for applications, if they could find the transportation from their villages. 
The food that we deliver to our mothers each month is quite literally, a lifesaver. Six of our mothers were interviewed by myself and other FFF volunteers during our home visits to their villages in Guatemala two weeks ago. All were asked what they did for food when our donations, which are meant to provide one basic meal per day to the family members, ran out. The answers were the same. They either begged for food from neighbors, or they did without. 
A factory job? What a blessing that would be for each of these mothers. With a paycheck, which is something none of them have ever seen, the Maria's and Catarina's could afford more food, they could purchase basic kitchen ware, clothing, and basic essentials. Instead, this is how they earn their "living":
Hills near Catarina's house where she picks coffee

Maria and her two teenage daughters contract with a local consigner to weave traditional fabric pieces.  He pays them far less than fair market trade value. If they do not meet his quota, they risk not having the business. 

Maria's 15 yr old weaves 8 hours a day

Catarina and her older children pick coffee beans in local coffee plantations. Average wage for eight hour days? Two dollars.  They feel fortunate to get this, since there is a coffee plant fungus currently infecting the 
 countries crops and the work is only available a few months a year.
A factory job with a paycheck, and regular hours would make any of our FFF moms feel like they had won the lottery. Meanwhile, they make the best of every day, with resilience and fortitude, and always, with hope for a more reliable income source.