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Bitter Strawberries

I participated in the Bitter Strawberries investigation in collaboration with Danwatch in the spring-summer of 2021. Photos were taken in Huelva, Spain, the largest strawberry-producing region in Europe.

As female migrant workers pick strawberries, they are frequently abused, isolated, and sexually harassed.

Meryem tells the story of her boss forcing her into forced sexual relations. “When I refuse, he makes me miss work days and lose my pay.” Similar testimonies were reported by three other Moroccan women. ” Women seeking work are often pressured by their supervisors to provide sex in exchange.”

Saeeda suffered a miscarriage at work and bled out for a month before seeing a doctor. My clothes were covered in blood while I picked strawberries, but the supervisor refused to help me.”

During working hours, Elena and her coworkers couldn’t go to the bathroom, so they ran into nearby bushes. When they were discovered, they could not work for the next three days.

For this investigation, I met and interviewed 16 laborers working for seven large exporters who sell strawberries in major supermarkets in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden.

The impact in Denmark. As a result of this investigation, which was published on Danwatch and Al Jazeera, Denmark’s largest labor union 3F collaborated with representatives of large supermarket chains (such as Germany’s Lidl or Aldi) and Spanish labor organizations such as CCOO. The purpose was to investigate working conditions and inform large companies and distributors about the products they distribute.

According to 3F, a pact similar to the so-called “Bangladesh Accord” needed to be negotiated between European retailers, Spanish unions, and female workers with clear guidelines and penalties for violations.

In March 2022 Salling Group and Coop, Denmark’s largest supermarket chains, suspended imports of red fruits from companies where abuses had been detected.