Colombian flower-workers’ story
"The women have to come back into the greenhouses immediately after the flowers are sprayed with pesticides. Some of them get dizzy or have trouble with their blood pressure, and some of their children have been born with lung problems."
- Dionise Trujillo, ex-flower worker, Colombia
For thousands of women in Colombia's flower industry, flowers aren't so much a symbol of love as one of mass exploitation. It's a cruel irony that, in an industry which generates so much profit from Mother's Day, summary dismissal for pregnancy is standard practice.
Colombia is second only to Holland as a flower exporter. Seventy per cent of the industry's workers are women. They are employed on temporary contracts which are often only verbal.
On an average day, one woman picks around 400 carnations. That number can double during peak periods - for example, the run-up to Valentine's and Mother's Day. The flowers from her day's work will sell on the main streets of the USA and Europe for up to $800. But she will earn a minimum wage of just under $2 a day.
And it gets worse. Medical surveys show that two-thirds of Colombia's flower-workers suffer from problems associated with pesticide exposure, ranging from nausea to miscarriages.