AP reporters win award for cosmetics working conditions investigation
The Sidney Hillman Foundation announced that Margie Mason and Robin McDowell of the Associated Press won the December Sidney Award for “Rape, abuses in palm oil fields linked to top beauty brands,” which exposes the horrific working conditions endured by millions of women who work on plantations in Southeast Asia, producing the palm oil that finds its way into countless consumer products including offerings by L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, and Cargill.
This is the second in a three part-series on abuses in the palm oil industry. The third and final installment will focus on the plight of child workers.
In interviews with more than three dozen female plantation workers, the reporters learned that women are relegated to the lowest-paid, most insecure and dangerous roles on the plantation. The isolated rural setting makes them vulnerable to supervisors who demand sexual favors, and even force women into the jungle to rape them.
Accidents and toxic exposures are routine. Many women are grieving miscarriages that happened after they were exposed to massive quantities of herbicides and denied adequate gynecological care. Women are forced to lift many times their body weight, even while pregnant. This unsafe lifting contributes to an epidemic of a painful disorder known as “uterine
prolapse” in which the womb protrudes from the body.
“Beauty products are sold with the language of empowerment,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “It is impossible to reconcile the “you go girl” message of a trendy lipstick with the suffering of the women who produce the raw materials.”
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