Migrant farmworkers experience more health problems, including family violence, than the general United States population. Yet healthcare workers have few culturally - and linguistically - appropriate educational materials and even less data on the prevalence of domestic violence among migrant farmworker women.
Migrant Clinicians Network (MCN) addresses family violence by incorporating migrant farmworker feedback into their program development. It started by collaborating with Lideres Campesinas, a group of self-organized farmworker women in California, to create a training manual for farmworker women on leading educational presentations on family violence in the mid 1990s. MCN soon discovered that training migrant farmworkers as domestic violence advocates could reach far more women than traditional presentations given by MCN staff. As trusted leaders in their community, the female advocates are able to approach other women in homes, laundromats, parks and other venues to discuss family violence and safety plans.
While using advocates to conduct a community-based research project on the prevalence of family violence from 1998-2001, MCN facilitated a two-day leadership development conference for the advocates to share their stories and ideas. The conference allowed migrant farmworker women to connect with each other and learn about community-building, organizing and leadership skills. The women later identified useful skills for advocates, such as establishing trust and providing support and clear information to farmworker women.
Having recently shifted its focus from intervention to primary prevention, MCN has also used advocates to administer a questionnaire assessing the attitudes and beliefs about domestic violence in three Texas counties: Hidalgo, Maverick and Presidio. MCN then worked with Women’s Crisis Support/Defensa de Mujeres California, to adapt their prevention-based training curriculum, Familias Saludables, around the needs of migrant farmworkers. The two agencies now partner to provide a three-day training workshop for advocates on how to lead the curriculum in their own communites. Advocates have delivered the Familias Saludables curriculum, which is sensitive to groups with varying literacy levels and targets both men and women, thirteen times in Texas and Ohio.
In addition, MCN provides two-day trainings for advocates on the dynamics of domestic violence, including its various forms, how it affects children, safety planning and active listening skills. Advocates also learn to give presentations on family violence to migrant farmworkers, which are delivered in local schools, churches and homes.
Though MCN has been successful at delivering training to migrant farmworker advocates, it must remain sensitive to their daily and yearly work patterns. For example, childcare and work conflicts make it difficult for migrant farmworker families to participate in longer, more extensive training programs. MCN also schedules most of its trainings and outreach programs between November and April, during the six months that migrant farmworkers are located along the Texas-Mexico border.
Another challenge that MCN faces is recruiting men to deliver outreach programs targeted at male migrant farmworkers. MCN remains open to new advocate ideas and, most recently, incorporated feedback on reaching men at local flea markets, called pulgas. The Pulga Project is now an effective way to reach high numbers of men and families at local flea markets and is drawing the interest of farmworker men into family violence advocacy.
MCN attributes its success to grassroots strategies where migrant farmworkers reach out to their own communities. Advocates are best able to address cultural and social considerations while building trusting and supportive relationships with migrant farmworkers in need.
During the past year MCN has reached over 600 residents of Texas border communities and migrant farmworker men, women and families through its peer education programs, delivered by a group of 14 advocates. It continues to train new advocates and develop materials for farm workers and clinicians nationwide.
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