by Amanda Hernandez
The eyes of the world are on London this summer. The organisers of this year´s Olympic Games hope to reach an audience of more than one billion people. In the excitement surrounding the Olympics, it is easy to overlook the very people who have been working behind the scenes to make the Games take place.
Far from the elegance and glamour of the Games, in countries such as Philippines and Sri Lanka women who manufacture the clothing and footwear worn by the athletes, work long hours for low wages, often in hazardous and appalling conditions and under precarious working arrangements (See the following report for more information)
According to a Central America report of War on Want leading brands such as Adidas, Nike and Puma have invested heavily in the Olympic Games 2012 while in Bangladesh, labour rights and `decent work´ for women working in their factories are not guaranteed (see the report).
In the case of Central America there is a lack of research related to transnational brands that sponsor sport evens such as the Olympics and the labour conditions they provide to their female labour force. However, research and advocacy over the last decades has documented female labour conditions in the region. Exploitation is endemic in agriculture, mines, and factories [maquilas] where garments, shoes, rugs, toys, chocolate, and other goods are produced. The abuses are common: 60 – 80 hour workweeks, sub-poverty wages as low as pennies an hour, and no benefits. Workers are harassed, intimidated, forced to work overtime, prevented from organizing, and fired if they complain. Some women are confined, brutally exploited, beaten, and sexually abused with no one looking out for their welfare (For more information see: www.cawn.org.uk).
The opening ceremony of the Olympics 2012 encourages gender equality as a fundamental element in the XXI Century. Paradoxically, main brands which support Olympics event seem to condone and even perpetuate gender inequalities and lack of women rights in their own factories. Olympics can play a central role in attracting attention to Female labour exploitation. This is a pivotal issue for women across the world because decent work has become a primary route to enter the public domain and a greater possibility for transformative change.