Promoting Women's Health For Migrant Workers

10/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Ms. Foundation For Women

Lucy C. Félix knows about the life of migrant workers firsthand: her father is a migrant farmworker who brought the family to South Texas from Mexico in 1997. Félix had been a social worker in Mexico; when she saw what life was like for many women in rural Texas, especially those without documentation, she knew she had found her calling.

A decade later, Félix is a leader in the community-based reproductive justice movement. In 2000, she joined Migrant Health Promotion (MHP), an organization dedicated to improving the health of farmworker and border communities. She was hired as a promotora de salud to work within local communities to promote health and access to health care services. But Félix found that the energy and commitment of the people she worked with inspired her to assume an even greater role.

When the MHP program La Voz Latina (The Latina Voice, LVL) was created in 2001 with a grant from the Ms. Foundation, Lucy immediately signed on. LVL uses the promotora model--which is based on the premise that community members are best equipped to promote health in their own communities--to promote migrant women's reproductive health. But then it goes a step further by building women's capacity to advocate for themselves and defend their rights.

Many of LVL's participants lack migratory documents and few speak English, so the only work they can find, if any, is in very low-paying jobs. Some of the colonias, the border-area settlements in which they live, are so remote and neglected by government that they often have no commerce, no paved roads and limited or no access to public services like water, electricity, or sanitation.

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