Being a 61-year-old mother of eight is tough enough, but, somehow Isaura de Jesús Maradiaga also manages to be a labor rights leader in her Honduras community. She trained with the Labor Department-funded Everybody Works project in the town of Choluteca. To get there, Isaura embarked on a long journey, week after week. She walked ten kilometers, crossed a stream, reached the nearest passable road, and caught a bus to the town. Now, as a labor promoter, she continues to walk to neighboring communities to train others. She does this in addition to volunteering her time as a leader in her local church, water committee and village government. Since she did not finish her primary education until well into her fifties, she is especially passionate about sharing the knowledge she acquired during Everybody Works with younger generations.
Everybody Works is a project under DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs that operates 14 Worker Rights Centers throughout Central America and the Dominican Republic. The project provides free, confidential legal consultations to workers, and if necessary, the project’s lawyers help workers file legal cases. Workers aren’t the only ones who benefit. Their governments can save limited time and resources because cases are prepared correctly with a clear problem identified. Through education and legal representation, the project supports workers who might never have sought to defend their rights.
Women serve in all aspects of the project’s mission—as central staff, as country coordinators, and as lawyers providing services every day to workers. That said, everyone on the team—man or woman—strives to empower workers in labor sectors with large female populations like domestic service and apparel production. These sectors tend to have some of the most vulnerable workers.
To make the project sustainable and ensure local involvement, Everybody Works trains local labor promoters – like Isaura – who learn labor laws and processes to help other workers in their communities. Some, like Isaura, serve as leaders later in life. Other labor promoters get involved when they are young, just the kind of empowerment Isaura is so passionate about. Several labor promoters have even decided to go to law school and dedicate their lives to supporting workers.
While they are active, projects like Everybody Works provide an enormous support to workers. Once these projects end, however, strong women like Isaura make the project’s impact sustainable. These community leaders support and empower other workers and future generations to get what they deserve for the work that they have done. This Mother’s Day, ILAB salutes all the mothers like Isaura who go above and beyond for their families and livelihoods of others in their communities.
For more information on the Everybody Works project, visit: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/projects/americas/Central_America_Worker_Rights_Centers.pdf.