LSF Grantee series


Levi Strauss Foundation Grantee Fights for Gender Equality in Mexico

Levi Strauss & Co.
October 30, 2019

We’re taking a look at some of the notable organizations that are supported through the Levi Strauss Foundation. These longstanding partners are more than grantees – they are invaluable resources to their communities and in the countries where we make our products.

When justice and equality are on the line, Fondo Semillas knows short-term solutions aren’t enough.

For the last 28 years, the non-profit organization has worked tirelessly to improve women’s lives in Mexico and empower them to fight against gender-based discrimination and unfair labor conditions. By providing financial support and guidance to women’s organizations, Fondo Semillas has directly reached more than half a million women in the country.

We recently caught up with the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) grantee to learn more about how they’re advancing labor rights in Mexico. Below is an excerpt from our conversation.

Since we last featured Fondo Semillas in 2015, how have labor conditions in Mexico changed? 

Thanks to the work of civil society organizations supported by Fondo Semillas and others, during the past year, the Federal Labor Law in Mexico was finally reformed, and substantial progress has been made in several areas, including:

  • Labor rights for domestic workers and care services. The labor rights of domestic workers have finally been recognized as equal to those of employees in Mexico’s formal economy. Employers are now obliged to pay social security payments and other entitlements like minimum wage and bonuses.
  • The law provides a precise definition of unions, including how they form, operate and negotiate. Proportional gender representation in leadership bodies is now mandatory.
  • Definitions of sexual and workplace harassment. The concepts of workplace harassment and sexual harassment are now clearly defined.

While these are important changes to the legislative framework, there is more work to be done to ensure their implementation.

What is the most important resource Fondo Semillas offers women workers?

In a time when many funders – especially brands – are hesitant to support labor rights organizations, financial support is the most important tool for women-led grassroots organizations to continue the work that they do. Another critical element is to partner with other similar organizations; this means sharing knowledge and experience and bringing organizations together. With adequate support, women can question inequality, dismantle prejudices and identify solutions to the problems they face.

How does Fondo Semillas’ impact extend beyond individual workplaces?

Gains made by women labor rights advocates not only have a positive impact on women in the workplace, but also on their families and communities.

Fondo Semillas also works to support movement building by connecting individual organizations across different sectors and locations to build collective power. In some cases, the struggles of women workers have led to setbacks, where employers have fired entire groups of women workers – for example, by closing entire factories – before complying with the required labor laws. However, the majority of female workers who suffer through these situations remain together and take their struggles to other spaces. Knowing about their rights has led them to position themselves differently, even in unemployment.

What’s next?

Fondo Semillas will continue to prioritize efforts to promote the rights of women workers in Mexico. This can happen in several ways; some grassroots leaders are advocating for improved labor laws and better enforcement of these requirements. Fondo Semillas is also working with consumer-facing organizations to encourage more conscious consumption, which is a newer approach in Mexico.

Learn more about how we’re investing in the lives of our workers:

Safeguarding Worker Well-being in Vietnam

Meet the Central American Women’s Fund, a Levi Strauss Foundation Grantee