Sexual Harassment Prevention

Health and Safety of Women Agricultural Workers ~ Sexual Harassment Prevention Project

The bandana project. Photo by S. Holland

The sexual harassment prevention project, entitled Health and Safety of Women Agricultural Workers in Yakima Valley, was a community-engaged research to action project between investigators at the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (PNASH) and co-investigators at Radio KDNA/Northwest Communities Education Center serving Yakima Valley. This study was made possible through a longstanding campus-community partnership (El Proyecto Bienestar) between PNASH, Heritage University, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic and Radio KDNA. This project was funded by the Washington State Medical Aid & Accident Funds through the University of Washington's Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

The overall objective of this project was to examine and address sexual harassment as an occupational health hazard in the Washington agricultural workforce. This project was created in response to concerns voiced by farmworker health and social service providers about the occupational health risks of women agricultural workers, as well as increased media and legal attention regarding sexual harassment in the agricultural workplace. The hidden nature of this issue profoundly impacts women’s ability to work safely in agriculture. The agricultural industry has also shared their concern with us about the lack of educational resources available to address this problem. The short-term goals of this project were to 1) develop educational and informational products that address sexual harassment in the agricultural workplace; and 2) effectively disseminate these products through key stakeholders and throughout the Yakima Valley using a variety of methods. The long-term goal was to share this educational and informational strategy with other agricultural communities throughout Washington. This project came with strong commitments from key leaders at the WA State Human Rights Commission, Northwest Justice Project, WA Growers League, WA State Department of Labor & Industries, and WA State Department of Agriculture, all of whom serve as advisors as part of the Project Advisory Committee (PAC).


Contact us

Victoria Adela Breckwich Vásquez, DrPH, MPH, MA
Director, Community Engagement & Education
PNASH, University of Washington


Farmworker Focus Group Research

A purposeful sampling method was used. Three research team members personally recruited potential participants from their own social networks over two weeks in early December 2013. Potential participants were invited to attend focus group discussions about being a women worker in the agriculture industry. Recruitment was done orally, away from agricultural workplaces using a study script. Eligibility was limited to female agricultural workers, aged 18 and older, who were fluent in Spanish, and had lived in the Yakima Valley for at least two years.

Two evening focus groups, each with ten participants, were held at the Radio KDNA building in Granger, Washington, in late December 2013. Reminder phone calls were made to each of the participants to increase turnout. The community health workers each facilitated one focus group in Spanish using a semi-structured guide. While one community health worker facilitated, one or more research team members observed and took field notes on non-verbal cues and emotional states. Informed consent was obtained and recorded orally before each focus group. The focus group lasted 2 hours and was audio-recorded for transcription purposes. Participants were assigned and identified by numbers during the study to enhance anonymity.

The focus group guide questions elicited perceptions of health and sexual harassment at the agricultural workplace. Questions included how they or others they know have experienced sexual harassment, what they see as enabling or protective factors for sexual harassment, and potential prevention messages for sexual harassment.

At the end of each focus group, each participant completed a written, Spanish demographic survey regarding age, marital status, family size, religious preference, location of birth, years lived in the United States and the Yakima Valley, highest level of education attained, language fluency, years worked in agriculture in the Yakima Valley, type of agricultural work done, rating of health, and health concerns related to work. Research team members were available to assist with the survey as needed. Each participant received a $25 gift card to Walmart for her time.

All documents (recruitment script, oral consent/focus group guide, and demographic survey) were developed in English. Documents were then translated into Spanish and back-translated into English to ensure language quality and consistency by two bilingual research team members. An adverse event protocol was also developed in case participants expressed psychological distress during the focus groups.

All study procedures and materials described were approved by the University of Washington’s Institutional Review Board.

Initial focus group analysis resulted in the development of prevention messages for each of 3 key groups: women farmworkers, managers/supervisors, and growers/owners. An expanded analysis of the focus groups resulted in a Master’s in Public Health Thesis by the project’s Research Analyst, Nicole Kim. We are planning subsequent publications based on these results.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Resource Wallet Cards

sexual harassment prevention - wallet cardsWallet cards

Although not originally part of the project plan, we were approached by both women farmworkers and Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC) lawyers in Seattle to work on the development of something that could be used during outreach and that would contain key resources for farmworkers regarding sexual harassment and their rights. Together with UW students (from migrant farmworker families), the women farmworkers and project team developed this wallet card. It is small enough to fit in someone’s wallet, purse or pocket, and the lamination protects it from damage. These were made in-house at PNASH and are welcome to be adapted to other areas (they contain Yakima-specific resources) with permission. Please call us to discuss options, (800) 330-0827. 

Spanish-Language Radionovela on Sexual Harassment Prevention

NCEC/Radio KDNA created a Spanish-language Radionovela on women’s health and sexual harassment in agriculture based on key prevention messages. Radio KDNA has a pretesting and vetting process with all of its products. Actors were chosen from among those with a farmworker background to ensure cultural and industry relevance. In addition, the PAC reviewed the draft Radionovela script to make sure legal requirements (definition of sexual harassment, what behaviors constitute it, the importance of reporting, and referral sources) were met.

Transcript (English) pdf

The four-minute radionovela was aired on May 15, 2014 and throughout the summer (2014). We will develop 2 radio call-in shows.

Airing schedule

Play/Theater El Moscas: Preventing Sexual Harassment in Agriculture

In collaboration with leaders in the Washington State Department of Agriculture, we adapted the characters/script of the pesticide education play, El Moscas. The theater production, “Preventing Sexual Harassment in Agriculture,” was designed to spread awareness and educate people about what to do if sexual harassment occurs in the orchard or warehouse where they work.  It seeks to empower workers to take action and unite to eliminate sexual harassment in agriculture by increasing respect. Performances were held in Summer 2014 and were open to farmworkers, supervisors, and families in rural Washington and were held in Quincy, Buena, Grandview, Prosser City Park, and at the Yakima Fiesta de Salud.

Sexual Harassment Training Video for Agricultural Workers

A six module video is being developed for farmworkers, growers, supervisors, and managers in the agricultural industry.  It focuses on the importance of the problem of sexual harassment in the agricultural Industry, the legal definition of sexual harassment, and steps to identifying and preventing sexual harassment. The script is currently under development.

The Bandana Project

staff photo with bandanas Project staff presented bandanas to the Yakima Diocese and Bishop's staff in Yakima, WA

Our Bandana Project participated in the national Bandana Project, a public awareness-building movement and activity designed to focus attention on the issue of sexual harassment in agriculture. Paula Zambrano, Carmen Mireles and other farmworker women in Yakima Valley designed the artwork of the bandanas alongside our project staff and students.

Credit for the Bandana Project goes to attorney Monica Ramirez and Esperanza leaders, a concept developed years ago when Monica was at Southern Poverty Law Center. For a description of the national effort, see the Alabama Publich Health brochure: "Raising Awareness, The Bandana Project"  

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