The First Delegation of US Tradeswomen to India has been VERY BUSY. Right after we returned from India, members of the Delegation put together a committee to bring a delegation from India to Women Build Nations, the national tradeswomen’s conference held in Chicago this past weekend. It was a long process and we had hoped to bring 4 guests, two women construction workers and two advocates. After many attempts, the construction workers were unable to get visas from the US government. We provided lots of documentation that the women would be coming to attend the conference and would be returning home after. We even got Gina Walsh, retired tradeswoman and Missouri State Senator, involved. But these days, poor people are not allowed to visit the US and we were unsuccessful in bringing Rhadhika and Manisha to the conference. We will try again in the future.
We were able to bring two guests, Vrishali Pipati, Director of Mumbai Mobile Creches in Mumbai, and Thresiamma Mathew, Director of the Archana Women’s Centre in Kerala. Mumbai Mobile Creches is one several organizations across India that have been setting up childcare centers on construction sites for the children of migrant construction workers for almost 50 year. Archana has been training women in the masonry and carpenter trades for 30 years. The Centre itself was built entirely by women. An interview with Ms. Mathew about the work of Archana has just been published here.
Archana Women’s Centre, Ettumanoor, Kerala, India
Before the conference, our guests spent time in St. Louis hosted by Carpenter Beth Barton and Missouri Women in the Trades (MOWIT). They visited the Bricklayers Local 1 apprentice training center and the carpenters training center, toured a Tarlton worksite at Washington University, attended a reception in their honor and saw a bit of St. Louis.
Bricklayers Training Center
Thresiamma seeing techniques
Vrishali at the Bricklayers
On Thursday, the tradeswomen of St. Louis and our India guests jumped in a van for the 6 hour drive to Chicago to spend the weekend with 1800 tradeswomen at Women Build Nations.
The tradeswomen of Building Bridges organized two workshops at the conference, one on their 16 day trip to India last January and on future ideas for tradeswomen returning to India and the second on building global networks for women working in construction. The global workshop included women from India, Canada and Ireland and reports on tradeswomen organizing in Australia and the Phillipines. There was a lot of interest among many women in being part of future delegations of rank and file tradeswomen and in building networks with women working in construction around the world.
In the final session of the conference, the Building Bridges Delegation joined Thresiamma and Vrishali on stage as they addressed the participants in the plenary session.
Operating Engineers Kelly McClellen and Holly Brown played final hosts in Chicago after the conference with a visit to the Operating Engineers ginormous indoor training center and finally a bit of tourist time. Vrishali and Thresiamma flew home this past Wednesday.
We hope to have our sisters and even more international representatives attend the next Women Build Nations when it happens in Seattle.