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Year: 2013 Type: Book Chapter Language: English

Whilst there are numerous cases where women workers experience a regressive double marginalization (as workers and as women) in globalized export agriculture, it is important to investigate cases where gendered working practices have given rise to more complicated, and possibly, more progressive outcomes. This chapter takes the case of women workers in export horticulture in North East Brazil to explore what these new sites might sometimes offer women workers, and whether they have been able to increase their bargaining power. The study looks at the context in which the rural trade union Sindicato dos Trabalhadores Rurais (STR) was operating, the ways in which women workers have engaged with the union, and the extent to which they have won benefits as workers through this engagement. The chapter places this case study in the broader Brazilian context; explain the reasons for, and extent of women’s employment in the São Francisco valley, documenting how women have become increasingly active in the valley’s rural trade union and how this has, in turn, resulted in important changes both within the trade union and to women’s working conditions in the grape sector; and finally offers some preliminary conclusions to this study. This chapter’s analysis of the evolution of the STR’s role vis-à-vis women workers and in particular the latter’s ability to influence the trade union reveals a case of positive interaction between an initially male-worker orientated and run rural workers union and its expanding number of (both flexible and permanently employed) women workers. What this case study also reveals is a process whereby the struggle to gain recognition of the worth of women’s work is connected, quite intimately, to the specific nature of the economic sector within which they are employed.

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