Since 1993, hundreds of women have been violated and murdered just yards away from America’s border with Mexico. These young women, employed as factory workers in 50-cent per hour jobs for large companies, are often nameless faces to all but their loved ones and human rights organizations fighting for justice.
The keynote speaker at WorldView shared the plight of these women with nearly 200 guests on October 18. Barbara Martinez Jitner, filmmaker and human rights activist, was prompted by the present-day femicide in Juarez, Mexico, to pose as a factory worker to investigate. Her experience led to the making of her critically acclaimed documentary La Frontera and the movie Bordertown, which has raised awareness of the atrocities.
According to Martinez Jitner, low-wage employment in factories or “maquilas,” established through the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), has resulted in millions of poor people from the interior of Mexico moving to the border. Poverty-stricken housing builds up around the NAFTA factories. The men of these struggling families often cross over into the United States in order to make money to send home, leaving the young women even more vulnerable.
Dr. Laurel Quinn, professor of nursing, introduced Martinez Jitner and said that the benefits to nursing students attending the event are far reaching. “There are so many benefits, it is hard to list them, including being exposed to issues that are global and need to be addressed and to a role model for caring and taking a stand. Students were also stimulated to think about what they can do as a nursing professional.”
Dr. Rose Malinowski, professor of social work, was moved by the presentation. “I am impressed and encouraged by Jitner’s courage and perseverance in carrying this message out for the people who are experiencing cruel injustice because of economic greed,” said Malinowski. “For the students, personal stories often help them grasp complex issues more fully. For social workers, we are taught to work with the person in the environment and strive for justice for the people and communities we serve.”