March 29, 2017


Sparking an understanding — Bandana Project event spotlights sexual exploitation of farmworker women


By Erin Bamer

The University of Idaho Women’s Center and the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) partnered together Tuesday to promote the Bandana Project to raise awareness about the sexual exploitation of women in the farming industry.

CAMP Advising Specialist Christina Vazquez-Ayala said the project had previously been featured at UI in 2012, but came back to campus last year, which she helped orchestrate.

According to its website, the Bandana Project was launched by Esperanza: The Immigrant Women’s Legal Initiative of the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007 as a part of its initiative to end workplace sexual violence against farmworker women throughout the United States.

The Women’s Center Assistant Director for Programs Bekah MillerMacPhee said the reason behind making bandanas the symbol for the campaign came from the experiences of farmworker women who say that they use them, as well as oversized clothing, to try to hide their gender and to protect themselves from being sexually exploited in the workplace.

UI students and faculty decorated several bandanas at the event with words of encouragement to help send the message that sexual violence will not be tolerated in any place, especially the workplace, and to stand in solidarity with victims of this type of harassment and assault.

MillerMacPhee said the decorated bandanas will be on display in the Idaho Commons in April to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

She said Women’s Center partnered with CAMP for the event because of its ties to gender equity and feminism, as well as its overall importance to UI students and the surrounding communities.

“There is an entire population of women in our own home state that are working under extremely stressful conditions, who aren’t being compensated for their work and are taken advantaged of because of their vulnerabilities and yet, many people know nothing about it because they have no voice,” MillerMacPhee said.

MillerMacPhee said she hoped the severity of the issue leads those who attended the event to continue discussing the problem and take strides toward ending it altogether.

UI junior Ainsley Ramiro said she attended the event because it “hit close to home” for her.

“My father is an immigrant and he used to work in the fields and a lot of family — women included — still work there,” Ramiro said.

She said she didn’t really know the extent of the issue before learning about the project, which Bandana Project’s website cites that “90 percent of farmworker women state that sexual harassment is a major problem.”

Ramiro said she doesn’t think that people outside of the farm-working and migrant communities have any idea that the issue exists at all.

“We are the University of Idaho and this is an issue affecting our state and also our students,” MillerMacPhee said. “Not only do many of our students come from a farming background, but many enter into farm work after graduating, so we need to raise awareness about those issues that affect our students and I’m glad we could to that with the Bandana Project.”