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AIWA: Civic Engagement Story
With support form the Innovation Center, adults and youth in Oakland, California, joined forces to improve garment workers’ health and working conditions. Together, they changed the lives of women in the garment industry. “Youth had a stake in making sure their moms could come home from work and not feel pain,” says Stacy Kono, Project Director of the Youth Build Immigrant Power (YBIP) program at Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA).
For years, AIWA had mobilized immigrant women on behalf of Asian immigrant families and garment workers. They launched YBIP to engage youth and adults as partners in this effort.
“A lot of youth joined YBIP because their moms are garment workers,” says Kono, who hosted drop-in events that attracted mostly young women, ages 14 to 20. In these informal settings, young people discovered their similar family experiences. One young woman says she began to understand “why it was the humming of sewing machines that put me to sleep as a kid, and not the humming of my mother.”
That was enough to spark a movement of YBIP members, adults at AIWA, and the garment workers themselves to negotiate healthier conditions in factories. The Innovation Center provided training and consulting to help AIWA conduct a survey, define priority issues, develop a training manual, and build youth-adult partnerships. The results were outstanding. Through the project, AIWA: