Amnesty International Toronto Organization

Regional Meeting October 16, 2004


Workshop outline – Free Trade

Kathy Price



Investor Rights or Human Rights? The impact of economic globalization and “free trade” on women in the Americas


Facilitated by Kathy Price


Intro – 5 minutes


My name is Kathy Price and I’m a co-coordinator of the Urgent Action Network. I’m also working on a research project called Women at Risk in the Americas: The Hidden Face of the “New” Economy. This project is a unique Canadian contribution to the Violence Against Women Campaign and looks at how economic policies and trade agreements are contributing to violations of women’s human rights and violence against women. I’m also a filmmaker and the impact of economics on human rights as been a theme of documentaries I have produced in Central and South America. If you’re interested in any of those productions, ask me about them at the end because they are available from the Amnesty office and can be useful for group meetings.


In this workshop, we’re going to:

·        Look at aspects of the globalized, free trade economy that are impacting on women

·        Watch some pieces of video that enable us to hear from women themselves about the human rights violations and violence they are experiencing

·        Raise questions and share ideas about ways to respond

·        Take action via 2 petitions



Ice breaker – Making it personal – 5 minutes


Together with the person seated beside you, check any labels on your clothes. Where were your clothes made? What do you know about the human rights situation of the workers in those countries who made your clothes?

Hear back from people or some of them (depending how many in the room)



Key aspects of globalized economy -- 10 mins


You can see from the clothes that you wear that we live in an inter-connected, globalized world.


In this workshop, we’re going to be looking at the impact of some aspects of the global economy on women’s human rights – particularly in Latin America


The word globalization is thrown around a lot. Before we go any further, what do we mean when we say globalization? What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you hear globalization?

Write up responses on board or flip chart


Indigenous Peoples would argue that globalization is not new and that we have lived in a globalized world since Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, initiating a process that would see mineral wealth extracted and sent back to Europe. During that process, Indigenous people were enslaved to extract the minerals or exterminated to remove their possible resistance to this foreign take over of the wealth of their land.


But in the last number of decades, we’ve seen some sweeping economic changes taking place around the world that many people refer to as neo-liberal globalization – a new and accelerated globalization


We could think of it as a rapid increase in cross-border economic, social, technological, and cultural exchange


These changes have fuelled increasing cross-border flows of goods, services, money, people, information, and culture


Some of the changes that are enabling this to happen include (REFER TO POINTS ALREADY WRITTEN ON FLIP CHART):

·        opening up borders and getting rid of trade barriers to the free movement of goods and capital – so called ‘free trade’ agreements and policies

·        deregulation – getting rid of laws by which governments used to regulate in the public good – e.g. dismantling labour laws that protect workers or legislation that protects the environment and public health

·        privatization (selling off state utilities to private corporations)

·        governments have ceded rulemaking powers with regard to their economies to global bodies like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – NOTE THAT WHILE THESE ARE GLOBAL BODIES, THEY ARE CONTROLLED BY NORTHERN INDUSTRIALIZED COUNTRIES


In any process of economic restructuring – and this is massive economic restructuring taking place on a global scale – there are winners and losers.

Certain sectors of the population have benefitted and been enriched by these changes. But a huge sector of the world’s population has been and continues to be negatively impacted.  That’s why we increasingly hear about a growing gap between rich and poor.  A huge proportion of those who are negatively impacted are women, who as you may well be aware, make up a disproportionate number of the poor.


So what we’re going to explore next is how these aspects of the new global economy are having a particularly damaging impact on women, and making women more vulnerable to violence


This is precisely the scope of the research that I am currently doing. When it’s finished – hopefully by the end of the year – we will be developing actions based on the conclusions and recommendations.





1)      Sweat shops/maquilas/Export Processing Zones – 15 mins


Ask people what they know about this?


In countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, free trade zones have been created. Started as far back as 30 years or so, in the border between Mexico and the US. Springing up all over the place in the last 10 years. In these areas, companies are exempted from all taxes. They come attracted as well by the promise of cheap labour – cheaper than in Canada and the US, where unions have won decent wages and benefits for workers -- and a docile work force of people desperate for a job. The companies bring in all the materials, equipment, etc. The plants are assembly factories. Then the product – whether apparel, car parts or electronics – is shipped out without duties having to be paid.


The workforce is predominated by young women.


What is the situation for these women …

Want to let a number of women maquila workers tell you themselves. These are interviews I filmed in El Salvador. They could have been filmed in many other countries of Latin America.


PLAY EXCERPT FROM PEACE, WHAT PEACE? (From B. Cuellar re growing gap and desperation to M. Anner re “violation of their rights to life with dignity”) – 5 mins


What rights did they say had been violated?


Right to organize, to healthy working environment, freedom from harassment, just wages, etc. etc.

Can be exposed to dangerous chemicals

Can be sexually harassed by supervisors

Forced pregnancy tests – reproductive health rights

Right to organize




On top of these violations of women workers’ human rights, in the maquila free trade zone of northern Mexico, we’re seeing an intersection with women being put at risk of violence


How many of you know about the women of Ciudad Juarez?

Somebody like to tell us about that?


In Ciudad Juarez, city just south of the US border, hundreds of women have been brutally murdered since 1993. Many suffered sexual violence and torture before they were killed.  Police response and the response of the justice system has been less than adequate, to say the least.


A large proportion of the women killed or "disappeared" in Ciudad Juárez were migrants, lived in marginalised communities, often with no family support structure, and worked in the industria maquiladora- factories set up by US and other foreign companies to exploit cheap labour and favourable tariffs in the region near the US border.

This is what Amnesty has said: “These cases highlight the link between economic globalization and violence against women. While globalization has created economic opportunities for women in some areas, increased poverty and casualization of labour have led thousands of women to migrate in search of work, often in situations where they are vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and violence, and are denied access to effective protection from the criminal justice system,”


Economic policies that result in women having to leave their traditional communities and seek work in free trade zones – as well as conditions in the free trade zones themselves -- leave women vulnerable to violence.


For example, women working night shifts, and having to walk alone very late at night through  shanty towns to get home. In traditional, macho society where women and indigenous women would never previously have done this, woman out at night can be perceived as prostitute or loose woman.


So clear in this instance, not just talking about the need for proper investigations and justice – but also that steps must be taken to address the causes of women's vulnerability to violence. We have to tackle violence against women at its roots. And those roots can be economic roots.

So for example, Amnesty called not only for action by authorities but also called on multinational companies investing in Mexico, to show human rights leadership and social responsibility towards the communities they work and provide appropriate measures and adequate protection to ensure the safety of their workers.




2)  Transnational investment via mega-projects/resource extraction


INTRO: One aspect of the global economy has been the opening of countries to foreign investment –


In Latin America, a huge sector that has opened up to foreign investment mining and resource extraction.


In country, after country, new mining codes have been brought in which offer vastly advantageous conditions to foreign companies  -- eg don’t have to pay any taxes, and they can take as much as 98 % of earnings out – eg. Argentina, Guatemala


This process is one in which many people believe trade is trumping the human rights of the people who live in the countries, and creating an environment which only fuels violence against women


Recently, I attended the 4th Continental Gathering of Indigenous Women in Lima, Peru. Hundreds of Indigenous women came from countries all over the Americas and one of the topics they came together to discuss was globalization. I heard woman after woman talk about trade deals they believed put profits for foreign companies ahead of the human rights of women and communities.


I’ve brought back the words of three of those women on video tape.

The first woman is Soraya Cisneros of the Sarayaku community of Pastaza in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Sarayaku woman, like many other Indigenous women have played a key role in defending the rights of their community and their culture.


You’ll hear about that but first I want to show you some images of what is happening and where – to set the scene. This video was produced by the Toronto Environmental Alliance about Canadian corporate involvement in Ecuador.


Show RUDE OIL (black to true costs of oil production– 5 mins


Now I’m going to play for you a couple of minutes drawn from the interview I did with Soraya Cisneros.


As you watch, I’d ask you to keep in mind the rights that Soraya says are being violated in the Ecuadorian Amazon.




Q & A: Ask people to feed back what rights are violated in this case


·        Right to be consulted about development projects on their land

·        Right to food

·        Right to healthy environment

·        Right to culture

·        Right to freedom of organization and freedom of expression

·        Right to freedom from persecution


Paint circle – beginning with violation of right to be consulted (ILO convention 169), right to healthy environment, right to food security threatened and to culture violated, people protest, then you get death threats or repression


And in Ecuador, what is also being threatened is militarization – if you block the oil companies, we’ll send in the troops.


Opening of countries to unregulated investment is coinciding with militarization – Sarayaku believe the army is backing up the company – sent to frighten them into compliance – Soraya said that Sarayaku women who resist oil drilling have been labelled terrorists


Unregulated entry of foreign resource companies is coinciding with something else – there is evidence that violence against women is increasing in areas where there are mines or oil drilling




·        sudden introduction of money economy, alcohol, night clubs, rupture in traditional values, lifestyle, social fabric in an environment of chronic underdevelopment


And I have also been told by an Ecuadorian academic who works with Indigenous communities at an Indigenous university that they are seeing a new phenomenon -- reports of suicides of Indigenous women



·        Government of Ecuador – ratified ILO 169 and responsible for conventions it ratified

·        Companies – should respect rights

·        International Financial Institutions whose policies are pushing government to act in this way – in case of Ecuador, the IMF is promoting oil and gas expansion as a means to service the external debt that Ecuador owes –if Ecuador wants to get new loans, it has to do what IMF says and expand oil development




·        Canadian based EnCana has 30% share in OCP Pipeline that has been built for transporting crude oil

·        Government of Canada is a member of the G8 and has supported the structural adjustment policies of the WB and IMF

·        Government of Canada is also heavily promoting FTAA – the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a planned continental free trade arrangement which is likely to further a process of giving rights to corporations that undermine citizens human rights


At the Conference of Indigenous Women in Lima, the women agreed on a declaration that states their opposition to megaprojects and free trade deals that are approved without consulting them, and which they believe will further undermine their rights, lead to greater militarization and repression against those who dissent, and contribute to greater violence against women.







Before we finish, I’d like you to hear from two other Indigenous women I talked to at the Encuentro who make this connection between the desire for unrestricted access to resources and violence against Indigenous women. They were eager to tape these clips that would help Canadians to understand the situation they face.