Our main activity is to sponsor three to four solidarity delegations a year to the U.S.-Mexico border where we are hosted by a Mexican non-governmental organization, the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO or Border Committee of Workers). Once every two years we also organize one delegation to the Texas Valley. While our primary activity has been the delegations, we recognize the need to promote alternatives to free trade in various ways. As a result, since 2004 ATCF has held the annual Women and Fair Trade Festival in Austin as a way to learn more about and support community driven alternatives.
The two-day Festival includes local and international fair trade vendors who bring their unique crafts for sale, educational and poetry presentations, and artistic and cultural workshops, all accompanied by live Latin American music. We provide information to buyers about how communities benefit from their purchases and about alternatives to sweatshop manufacturing and unfair (and often illegal) labor conditions. The vendors are all members of collectives that benefit communities rather than single artisans.
As an outgrowth of this event, ATCF facilitated the formation of a project called Conectando Hilos de la Justicia (Connecting Threads of Justice) that brings together two of the Festival’s women’s collectives to share marketing, technical skills and cultural ideas: Jolom Mayaetik in Chiapas, Mexico and Fuerza Unida in San Antonio, Texas. The project is in it's fifth year with the support of NALAC(National Association of Latino Arts & Culture) in San Antonio, Texas.
During the first quarter of 2013, a new project was formed by our Mexican partners the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO). Its name GEMA (Género y Empoderamiento de la Mujer para la Acción) translates as Gender & Empowerment of Women towards Action. It includes 6 modules per year to women maquiladora workers in three border towns. ATCF has supported the project by incorporating several of our volunteers who go to the border to participate in the workshops. They provide translation, interpretation, communication skills (video and photography), and writing. The writing skills sharing has become part of the agenda of each workshop. As an extension of this project, ATCF hosted three participants of GEMA in Austin, Texas so they could speak on a panel about their experiences with GEMA, their vision, and their struggle at the 2016 ILASSA Conference at the University of Texas at Austin. A maquiladora worker and graduate of the GEMA program also facilitated the CFO's first GEMA workshop in Austin, Texas in April 2017.