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'We can figure out how to best help them' Organization working to stop sexual harassment against female farm workers

Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 11:15:51-04

MAGIC VALLEY — According to Justice for Migrant Women, 80% of farm working women surveyed in California said they have experienced sexual harassment.

Poder of Idaho, a nonprofit organization, says this is also an issue in the Gem State but goes highly unreported.

“Our colleague with the department of labor has done some amazing presentations and gatherings around how farm working women underreport sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. She maybe gets maybe one complaint a year and what we know is it’s happening more than that,” Estefania Mondragon, executive director of Poder of Idaho, said.

After receiving a grant, Poder of Idaho started its Sana Hermana project to gain more insight on why these cases go unreported.

The Sana Hermana project includes five listening sessions with farm-working women throughout the Gem State.

“We know some suspecting factor, you know some folks may be undocumented or fear of losing their job, things like that would be some of the reasons, but we wanted to hear from the women themselves," Mondragon said.

Poder of Idaho says a majority of farm-working women are unaware of their rights, which is one of the reasons why these cases go unreported.

“What we’ve decided to do is we have a listening session for an hour and then the next hour we talk about know your rights. So we bring along folks from the ACLU to do a know your rights training," Mondragon said.

Earlier this year, students at the University of Idaho raised awareness on this issue by using bandanas.

Beatrice Santiago, who grew up working in the fields with her family, says she recalled hearing stories of women being sexually harassed while working in the fields but being too scared to speak up. This led her to worry about her safety.

“I remember just worrying because I couldn’t see any of my sisters or my mom because we have heard stories about women being harassed. That’s the reason why I try to wear bulky clothes because I don’t appreciate the comments," Santiago said.

Instead of surveying the women on what they have experienced, Poder of Idaho's Sana Hermana project is taking a different approach to help the survivors feel more comfortable with opening up.

“For us, our people aren't used to doing surveys. We are not folks that are willingly going to give our information away. The way we can gather data is the way you tell stories, and that’s the more authentic way to do it," Mondragon said.

The organization will host five listening sessions and hopes to work with farmers to come up with solutions.

“We can figure out how to best help them as well and not just try to help them when violence is happening to them, but how to prevent it," Mondragon said.

For more information, you can visit Poder of Idaho's website.