The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) raised awareness for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Farmworkers Awareness Week with the Bandana Project.
The purpose of the project was to raise public awareness about issues that female farm workers face in the fields. As a vulnerable population, they are often subject to issues such as sexual assault and harassment, with many of the perpetrators being fellow supervisors and coworkers.
In addition to wage gaps, and power imbalances, women face potential repercussions for speaking out against sexual violence. They could be blacklisted or fired, discouraging them from coming forward.
The annual income for a farmworker woman is $25,840, which is difficult to survive on when raising a family. To further the challenges, the wage gap between farmworker men and women is $5,000. 1 in 4 farmworkers in the US are women, which there being around 43,100 in the Southeast. A 2008 survey of low-paid immigrant women in the Southeastern U.S. reported that 77% revealed workplace sexual violence was a major problem for them.
Many farmworker women hide their identities to avoid harassment, resorting to hiding their face and hair underneath hats and bandanas. In honor of the women, over 30 participants decorated bandanas with words of encouragement, powerful statements, and inspirational art.
The Bandana Project was originally created by Mónica Ramírez in 2007 when she was working with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The project was established to be a part of a national initiative to raise awareness about sexual violence against farmworker women in the workplace. Monica went on to later establish Justice for Migrant Women, her own non-profit, raising awareness for Latinx women as are they often the victims of targeted sexual violence in farmwork. Thousands of bandanas have been decorated around the US through renditions of the campaign.
CAMP partnered with Ruth’s Cottage, local domestic violence and sexual advocacy program, for this project. Through their Latino Outreach program, they were able to get assistance from program manager Jim Mejia, who was once a CAMP student himself. With the grant from Ruth’s Cottage, Mejia assisted CAMP in providing the bandanas.
April Salas is the associate director of CAMP and stresses the importance of raising awareness for farmworker women.
“Farmworkers often do not have knowledge of resources, especially migrant farmworkers. They move from place to place in search of work. If they are moving around too much, they cannot get familiar with local resources,” Salas said.
She hopes the project will help raise awareness for others to know and make it an issue for others to talk about. Whether or not women choose to tell their story, they are here and deserve justice as well as fair working conditions,” said Salas.
This is the first year that the project has been done, with the hope of making it a yearly event.
Salas believes that the program is important as students who come from families with migrant farm working backgrounds often don’t have enough money to attend college. For families who rely on farmwork, there is not a lot of money coming in for anything other than providing for the family. Through the program, she helps to encourage the students by providing them with a good support system.
“When students have a good support system, they are more likely to stay in college,” she said.
The program often pairs students together to keep them from feeling isolated and promote social connections, which can help aid in preventing burnout. It is also an effective way for them to stay connected, even as they progress through their academic career. Students are also assisted with connections to services and resources while giving them a chance to work on professional development.
CAMP is federally funded by the Department of Education through the Office of Migrant Education (OME). The program provides academic support while monitoring the progress of students to encourage their success. Financially, they can help fill in the gaps as needed, especially if federal aid doesn’t cover all costly aspects such as housing, school supplies, and books. To qualify for CAMP, students must be in their first year of college. They must be a US citizen with a permanent residence and qualify for Federal Financial Aid.
If any students are interested in CAMP, they can contact April Salas at email@example.com