Amnesty International Toronto Organization

Regional Meeting October 16, 2004


Workshop report Free Trade

Kathy Price


The workshop on Investor Rights or Human Rights:

What's the Connection between Free Trade Policies and Violence against Women?


The workshop was well attended, with at least 50 people taking part.  

The workshop format included lots of chances for input by workshop participants and there was much discussion and engagement around the issues. We watched several pieces of video I had filmed that shared the testimony of women maquila workers in Central America and Indigenous women from areas affected by resource extraction in South America. I think this was well received and it felt right that the women should be able to speak for themselves directly to our members.

At the end of the workshop, participants added comments and signatures to two letters -- one to the government of Ecuador regarding the defence of Sarayaku women and the other to the governor of Chihuahua regarding the murdered women in that state (including Ciudad Juarez).

It would have been good if there had been a break after the workshop so that people could have hung around to continue writing and signing or to raise questions and have individual conversations with me about the material. Instead people were rushing off to the next part of the agenda.

I also could have done with an additional 10 minutes (we started 10 minutes late as people trickled in from the previous activity).  Overall, I felt that the workshop was successful in meeting its goal of building greater awareness about the connection between economic policies and their impact on women's human rights (it was clear there were great differences in what workshop participants already knew about the subject with some more knowledgeable than others) and empowering people to take action on two specific cases via the letters. It was also clear that people are eager to know how specifically they can take action at both political and personal levels. A question that everyone wanted to talk about had to do with our buying practices and their impact.  It will be good to repeat this workshop when the report of the research project "Women at Risk in the Americas: The Hidden Face of the 'New' Economy" has been completed, its recommendations approved and actions for our membership developed.

For me this was an enriching experience to engage in such a lively and engaged exchange with members.  In future, I recommend that the set up of the room be changed so that we are in a circle rather than traditional classroom-style rows and the speaker at the front (I did not use the lectern and positioned myself as close to the participants as I could). The circle signals that we all have something to offer and that communication will be among us instead of from an 'expert' to the 'learners'.