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Safeguards against sexual harassment on African horticulture farms

In 2016, the Women@Work campaign in East Africa entered a new phase. In addition to flowers, we started to work in several vegetable sectors and we prepared to expand the programme to Southern Africa. In the meantime, we deepened our work in East Africa, through the development of a model workplace sexual harassment policy.

Improving women’s working conditions

The horticulture sector is a key income and export generator for most countries in East and Southern Africa. Women constitute up to 70 percent of the workforce in this sector, but they hardly ever benefit from the tremendous growth in investments and improvements in trade. On the contrary: on many flower and vegetable farms women are badly paid, work without protection from harmful chemicals, are denied basic rights such as maternity leave, and face sexual harassment on a daily basis.

Hivos has been working to improve the working conditions of these women workers since 2011 by taking a value chain approach. We deliberately focus on products which are an important export product in their country of origin and serve a major import market in high-income countries. This has enabled us to successfully engage all stakeholders that can help create solutions to this multi-faceted problem: governments, businesses, trade unions, certification bodies, civil society organisations, retailers and consumers.

Model sexual harassment policy

In Kenya, Hivos piloted an innovative method to ban sexual harassment from the horticulture farms. All key actors engaged in a constructive dialogue on how to achieve safeguards against sexual harassment in the workplace. In a collaborative effort each party agreed on its specific obligations; this created broad ownership of the policy, as well as a sustainable system of checks and balances.

Trade unions now monitor companies’ compliance as one of the conditions in their collective bargaining. Certification organisations align their standards and compliance indicators, and subject flowergrowers to these standards. Workers are to participate in workplace grievance redress mechanisms, to support the implementation of the agreed policy. Civil society organisations pass on their knowledge and document the experience, and governments enable the development – and enforcement -of responsive laws and policies. Last but not least, companies guarantee that the policy is being implemented in the workplace. In 2017 Hivos will commission a study to gauge the impact of the project as at that time.

Flower farms fighting sexual harassment

As a result of the reviewing and scaling up of the successful pilot in 2016, another 20 frontrunner flower farms will work directly with Hivos to scale up the project at farm level. Furthermore, certification body Fairtrade International and export association the Kenya Flower Council will require that their members comply with standard indicators drawn from the project. This brings in the indirect commitment of at least 105 flower farms in Kenya. In 2017 we will start involving a further 20 Kenyan flower farms and replicate the model to five flower and vegetable farms in Uganda, five in Tanzania and five in Ethiopia. In Uganda, Hivos will collaborate with STOP AIDS NOW! to extend the model to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace. To support this scaling up, Hivos will implement a cross-learning and knowledge platform.

In 2016 we commissioned scoping studies in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, to expand our horticulture work to Southern Africa. Based on this research into the most important export products and the most pressing problems faced by female workers, we chose to focus on one product in each country: chili peppers in Malawi, beans in Zimbabwe, and flowers in Zambia. In Zambia we specifically work with flower farm Khal Amazi, which produces the sweetheart roses delivered to many European supermarkets. These supermarkets include the largest retailer in the Netherlands, Albert Heijn, with whom Hivos has joined forces to increase the demand for fair flowers.

Living wage lab

In the Netherlands Hivos set up the Living Wage Lab, together with Fairfood International, to challenge the persistent problem of low wages for female workers in the African horticulture industries. The Lab brings together representatives from the government, trade unions, producing companies, retailers, NGOs, certification bodies and researchers. It is a space for learning and linking, for dialogue and understanding each other, and for piloting in the living wage field. We also continue to involve Dutch consumers in our Fair Flower campaign.

Donor: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs