Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Fund
International Labor Rights Fund staff members recently participated in the 7th World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. As the chart of the WSF states, the annual event is an open meeting place where groups and movements of civil society opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism, but engaged in building a planetary society centered on the human person, come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action.
Participants gather at the opening ceremony in Uhuru
on January 20, 2007.
ILRF participated in three panels throughout the 5 day event. The first panel was titled “The purchasing policies of Wal-Mart and other Big Box Retailers and how workers are impacted” and was organized with the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Clean Clothes Campaign. In addition to panelists from these organizations, the event also featured a worker from a textile union in Uganda which produces for Wal-Mart. The audience learned more about the sweatshop conditions at factories producing for Wal-Mart and brainstormed ideas for an international day of action to hold this big box retailer responsible for its labor rights violations.
Before the Wal-Mart panel started, audience members warmed up by singing solidarity songs together.
Esther de Haan from
the Clean Clothes Campaign discusses labor rights and the textile industry in Africa.
Later in the day on January 23, ILRF partner Maribel Batista Matos, a member of the Centro de Servicious Legales para la Mujer (CENSEL) in the Dominican Republic, appeared on a panel called “Women Workers and Workplace Sexual Violence.” CENSEL is a social service NGO that works to defend and promote the rights of Dominican women and Maribel has done extensive research on labor rights violations and sexual violence in the workplace in free trade zones of the Dominican Republic. The workshop highlighted ILRF’s Rights for Working Women Campaign to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. Participants from all over the world discussed to similarities in their workplaces in free trade zones from the Dominican Republic to Kenya. We also discussed strategies to include both women and men in the fight for gender justice and labor rights in the workplace.
Maribel and June Hartley, longtime ILRF partner and activist for women workers’ rights, discuss workplace violence with workers from Kenya
The final ILRF workshop was organized by the Chaire deResponsabilité Sociale et de Développement Durable in Canada. The event was titled “The Construction of Multinational Collective Actions: Regulation of American and Canadian Organizations on the African Continent” and focused on how US and Canada-based multinational corporations can be regulated in terms of their human rights abuses in Africa. ILRF staff member Natacha Thys talked about how the ILRF uses the Alien Tort Claims Act to hold US corporations responsible for international labor abuses, with a focus on ILRF’s case against Firestone. Tim Newman explained how the Stop Firestone Coalition uses public campaigning to hold Firestone accountable for its use of child labor in Liberia.
The World Social Forum was a great opportunity to join with a range of activists around the world who believe “Another World is Possible” (as the WSF motto states). ILRF looks forward to participating in the upcoming DC Social Forum on March 3 and the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA scheduled for June 27- July 1, 2007.