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How does international labor day affect women

Happy May Day to all of our dear OLR family, friends, and community across the globe. As we rejoice in the beauty of spring, blessed by the joy of Easter, we can’t help to wonder how fast time flies! To start the month we have none other than May Day, a day celebrated everywhere in the world that prompts us to remember workers’ rights around the world.

The history behind May Day

May Day is an important holiday that commemorates the beginning of a national strike for the eight-hour workday in the United States. In May 1886, around 200,000 workers across the country decided to withhold their labor until their demands were met by taking to the streets and culminating in a violent clash with the police. Workers were killed in the clash in Chicago, and workers around the world stood in solidarity with workers in the United States. Here’s how TIME summed it up in 1938:

A few minutes after ten o’clock on the night of May 4, 1886, a storm began to blow up in Chicago. As the first drops of rain fell, a crowd in Haymarket Square, in the packing house district, began to break up. At eight o’clock there had been 3,000 persons on hand, listening to anarchists denounce the brutality of the police and demand the eight-hour day, but by ten there were only a few hundred. The mayor, who had waited around in expectation of trouble, went home, and went to bed. The last speaker was finishing his talk when a delegation of 180 policemen marched from the station a block away to break up what remained of the meeting. They stopped a short distance from the speaker’s wagon. As a captain ordered the meeting to disperse, and the speaker cried out that it was a peaceable gathering, a bomb exploded in the police ranks. It wounded 67 policemen, of whom seven died. The police opened fire, killing several men and wounding 200, and the Haymarket Tragedy became a part of U. S. history.

The world commemorates the fight that labor unions had to hold for work standards that now seem basic like workplace safety protections, the weekend, and the eight-hour workday. 

Labor day in Honduras

May 1st is commemorated as International Workers’ Day and in Honduras, there are various activities aimed at recognizing the work of the country’s working class.

While it is true that Workers’ Day is the celebration par excellence of the world labor movement, in Honduras, it is not only celebrated to honor these international people, because here there was also a social struggle that ended up giving us most of the benefits we currently have. 

Known as the “Strike of 1954”, carried out in the same year, it consisted of 74 days in which the country practically stopped all its economic activity, being harmed more than anything else, the banana companies.

Between May 1 and 2, 1954, the banana workers of Honduras went on strike which, after a week, would cover the country in a great uprising that would involve almost all the workers of the country.

We must remember what the banana monopolies were like, the  United Fruit Co. and Standard Fruit Co. not only dominated the economy of Honduras and the Caribbean, but they were a “State within the State”, they put in and took out presidents, controlled the National Congress, and the laws were at their service.

This protest was so impressive the regular people took care of feeding the protesters in the streets, while they waited for their claims to be heard, and for a real change to come to the country.

The strike ended, but not all the demands were fulfilled as expected by the workers, however, most of them were considered and from there, what is now known as the Labor Code of Honduras began to be put together, which to be exact, came into force in 1959. 

Suyapa G. Portillo Villeda, is a queer feminist scholar who primarily focuses on gender, labor, and migration in Central America. Her book Roots of Resistance: A Story of Gender, Race, and Labor on the North Coast of Honduras  “explores contemporary Honduran labor history through the story of the great banana strike of 1954 and centers on the role of women in the narrative of the labor movement”

Women’s voice in international labor issues

Women have always been essential to the labor movement. It is through labor unions and their collective bargaining agreements that women have fought for and advanced in closing the gender-based gap in salaries. 

According to the Standford Social Innovation Review, “The term “grassroots women’s organizations” encompasses locally based and (in most cases) women-led NGOs that have a mission to empower women and advance women’s rights on multiple fronts. “

The gender gap persists in the labor markets of Latin America and the Caribbean and there are no signs that equality between men and women can be achieved in the near future, so it is necessary for the countries of the region to adopt measures that address both the challenges of employment policies and “unobservable” factors, says a study presented Tuesday in Lima by the International Labor Organization.

Among other findings, the ILO reports that women earn on average 17% less than men of the same age and with the same education, presence of children in their homes, rurality, and type of work. 

It details that the presence of women in the labor market grew significantly until 2000 and then slowed down and grew very slowly. At present just 50.3% of women work, while in the case of men the figure reaches 75%.

The report “Women in the world of work. Pending challenges towards effective equity in Latin America and the Caribbean” recognizes the progress made in the incorporation of women into the workplace, but warns that the road to equality is still “long and steep”

In addition, it stresses that there is “occupational segregation” and highlights greater inequality in the case of the poorest women workers.

“The report warns that gender differences constitute one of the unjustifiable forms of inequality today. And it is clearly a fact that conspires against the possibility of building more prosperous, just, and cohesive societies,” said Juan Hunt, ILO acting regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Even though Honduras elected its first female president the proportion of women in national political leadership actually declined in recent years, as the rules on equal representation were distorted, resulting in fewer women being elected.                    

Women aspiring to enter public and political life often faced opposition and sometimes violence. “We encourage the government to pass the bill on violence against women in politics and to strongly enforce gender parity laws,” experts from the ONU said.

In addition, Honduran women also have higher unemployment rates than men. Those working in maquila manufacturing plants, where laws are often violated, and domestic workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Xiomara Castro, the new Honduras president is expected to tackle these matters and forge a better future for the women of her country. 

Our Little Roses Mission of Empowering Women

Our Little Roses is proud that our ministry leaders in Honduras are strong, resilient, educated Honduran women.

Our mission is led by these women and is committed to ensuring that the girls that graduate from our program have the tools to become successful women in their careers and trades. We are pushing the boundaries of what is expected of girls born into abject poverty. 

Girls at Our Little Roses receive formal education through university or vocational programs. We are giving girls the tools they need to break cycles of poverty and become independent women who can help change Honduras and the world. We believe that through education, our girls can become capable leaders in their workplaces and community.

On-campus, Our Little Roses has a prominent bilingual school (Holy Family Bilingual School) that serves our girls and the community at large. HFBS has a great STEM program, with a state-of-the-art science lab (Schilling Science Lab) and computer lab. 

The girls at Our Little Roses who attend Holy Family Bilingual School love math and science and are excelling in those important classes. 

We also have a complete woodworking workshop on campus where our girls learn from two master woodworkers.  One of who is an  alumna of the Our Little Roses program.  This art-form has traditionally been available, almost exclusively, to men.  At OLR we believe in busting gender based limits in education.

We also have a special education program (Mi Rincon) on campus that serves our girls that need to catch up on educational milestones to allow them to  integrate into regular schools. 

Our after-school ESL program (Ethlyn & Frank Byrd ESL Program) ensures that all our girls master two languages by the time they graduate.

At Our Little Roses, we continue to focus on education as the tool to break through cycles of poverty. We are forming girls that will be the workers and leaders of Honduras. We support workers everywhere and empower the girls and workers in our ministries through education.

Contact us to learn how you can join Our Little Roses in empowering and transforming girls’ lives through education and love.