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Agricultural Workers Call on Governments to Respect Workers’ Rights
Press Release by the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI)
Friday, September 6, 2013 - 08:00

(Penang, Malaysia) - The Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) concludes a two-day Congress in Penang today, (5-6 September 2013), where matters relevant to agricultural workers were discussed. Participants came from the Asia Pacific, Africa, and North America.

Health and environmental problems caused by pesticide exposure and the more vulnerable sectors like women and migrant workers, as well as issues of landlessness, workers’ rights, health and safety, are high in the list of issues discussed.

Fatima Burnad, the newly appointed chair of CAWI says “women agricultural workers face discrimination and abuse in the workplace, and this is compounded with migrant workers. CAWI will explore existing mechanisms to address these problems.”

CAWI Secretary General, P.P. Sivapragasam, observes “agricultural workers rights especially of women have been affected in many countries, in particular because of the ethnic, religious, caste conflicts and civil war. Their land and livelihoods have been destroyed.”

CAWI’s work plan will address various issues. This includes sending a representative to the 4th International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR4) in New York from Oct. 1 – 6, 2013. May 1st will mark the beginning of a campaign on farmworker safety in the workplace that will culminate with the 30-year anniversary of Bhopal on December 3, 2014.

Antonio Tovar, CAWI steering council member, representing the Farmworker Association of Florida, USA, says “Farmworkers have been denied their basic human rights, such as the right to health. The community of Lake Apopka, Florida was exposed to highly hazardous chemicals, among them DDT. The community is feeling the intergenerational impact of these toxic chemicals and nothing has been done to address these problems.”

CAWI has taken notice of reports on migrant agricultural workers being abused, often receiving lower wages and enduring physical mistreatment. Many of them, including members of their families, leave their countries under precarious circumstances find their situation deteriorating in the receiving countries.

CAWI vice-chair, Hans Awude, from Ghana Agricultural Workers Union, remarks “It is important to strengthen the institutions that protect vulnerable groups of agricultural workers, such as migrants, indigenous people, small-holders, and subsistence farmers. Governments should take the lead in enforcing and implementing human rights instruments to protect these workers.”

CAWI calls on governments to enforce all existing conventions that protect the rights of agricultural workers, including women and migrant workers. ###

Contact: CAWI Secretariat - secretariat@agriworkers.org

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