Women in the plantations
The rural population on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast has few employment opportunities. As Mauren Gamboa, SITRAP's women’s officer, puts it: “For this area, the banana and pineapple reign supreme”. Working on the plantations is the only real option for many rural women to earn a living.
However, in Costa Rica, as in the whole of Latin America, the fruit industry workforce is overwhelmingly male – on average 87.5% of workers are men. This is partly due to a cultural perception of women as being primarily active within the domestic environment, partly because employers seek to avoid the cost of maternity leave.
When they are employed, women are generally restricted to the lower-paid, lower-skilled jobs in the fruit packing houses. They are vulnerable to the occupational risks posed to women's reproductive health by agrochemical use, and often face sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, as well as discrimination against union affiliation.
In 2016, the union created a five-year plan to increase the membership of women workers on tropical fruit plantations and their representation within the union – leading to a situation where every workplace has at least one female rep. And that successful work continues.
Says Mauren: “What is it that makes a woman decide to join the union when her basic labour rights have been violated? They witness our example: they see that we are union members, and we have someone representing us, even fighting for us. They notice that we are treated better.
"I am the union rep in my workplace, so it is me who defends the rights of the other women. Colleagues witness our example and it reflects their own potential back at them.”
Banana Link’s objective is “to achieve tangible changes in the lives of people working in banana and pineapple chains”. This involves:
- Fair and ethical trade practices, based on a fair living wage, equitable distribution of value along the chain, and competitive market access for small producers
- Dignity for workers and respect for labour and trade union rights
- Sustainable production systems, which reduce dependence on hazardous substances and minimise adverse health and environmental impacts on natural resources, workers and communities
- Constructive dialogue between all economic and non-economic stakeholders that accelerates a transition to fair, equitable and sustainable banana and pineapple chains.