Kenya is the lead exporter when it comes to flowers from Africa. In 2017, they exported 160,000 tons, accounting for 823 million USD dollars. The flower industry contributes more than 1% to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), providing employment to 100,000 people directly. Kenya also has a thriving vegetable production, of which French beans is one of the most crucial horticultural export commodities.
The two main areas of flower production are Mount Kenya and Lake Naivasha. Mount Kenya is a rural area, where the living wage is 138 US dollar per month. The living wage gap (the gap between the paid wages and the living wage) is relatively small here. Lake Naivaisha is considered an urban area, with higher costs of living. A living wage here is 264 US dollar per month.
Laws and regulations
The National Horticulture Policy and the Horticulture Crops Development Authority (HCDA) Code of Conduct regulates contract farming and helps improve conditions of work. However, there are structural defects that hinder the effective regulation of labor practices through certification. The Constitution of Kenya highlights significant gains for the promotion of decent working conditions for women. It is strengthened by a strong body of laws, including the Employment Act; the Labor Relations Act; Occupational Safety and Health Act; the Breastfeeding Mother’s Bill; and the Workplace Injuries and Benefits Act. Furthermore, Kenya has ratified CEDAW, ICESCR, the Banjul Charter and the ILO Conventions C100, C111, C131 and C098. However, enforcement and implementation of the law remains very weak. For example, even though the law prescribes that any workplace with more than 20 employees has a sexual harassment policy, there are still many farms without such a policy.
Challenges for women workers
Although the workforce is mainly made up out of women (60-75%), because the majority of them have limited education they hold the lowest-paid, low-skilled jobs, with few prospects of career progression. Even where affirmative action policies to involve women in decision making levels are enforceable, few women are able to take up higher positions. This relative lack of viable employment, coupled with low levels of education and awareness, leads to increased vulnerability and abuse in the workplace. Key labor rights challenges consist of low wages, inadequate provision for maternal health and child care facilities, poor workers’ representation, diminished decision making roles, exposure to unsafe working conditions, and sexual harassment. Violations of labor rights have been attributed to poor structures of accountability in the workplace, poor legal and non-legal regulatory frameworks, and overbearing patriarchal attitudes and practices by society.
Women@Work Campaign in Kenya
Hivos has established partnerships with seven organizations to directly work with workers and respond to their plight and ensure their rights are being upheld:
- African Women and Child Feature Services (AWCFS)
- African Women Communication and Development Network (FEMNET)
- Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya)
- Haki Mashinani
- Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
- Ufadhili Trust
- Workers’ Rights Watch (WRW)
They work on raising awareness about and among women workers, prevention of sexual harassment, female leadership, corporate social responsibility, and improving certification standards.
- The Kenya Flower Council (KFC) and Fairtrade Africa have adopted the Model Sexual Harassment Policy as the standard framework for addressing sexual harassment in the Kenyan flower farms and began the process of incorporating these commitments into the text of their certification audit frameworks.
- In total, 130 farms have adopted and implemented the sexual harassment policy in Kenya. Workers’ Rights Watch and Haki Mashinani have conducted training on sexual harassment, reaching 6,210 women workers.
Gender, business and human rights
- CSR Africa has conducted 10 social impact scans at Kenyan farms. The portal was launched during the IFTEX 2018 and helps businesses make a positive social, environmental and economic impact, using a detailed quantitative social impact assessment.
- Fairtrade Africa has revisited its certification auditing indicators based on a strategy developed by Hivos East Africa, to promote a results-based social certification model for the horticulture sector.
- KHRC has contributed to the development of the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
- Hivos and the KHRC contributed to the organization of the visit of the UN Working Group (UNWG) on Business and Human Rights to Kenya through the mobilization of workers and communities and provision of translation services, to allow for effective deliberations. KHRC also convened a preparatory meeting for CSOs working on business and human rights, so they could harmonize their stand and prioritize issues for the UNWG. At the end of their visit, the UNWG on Business and Human Rights released a statement about the precarious work environment in which women work in horticulture.
- More awareness has been created about the situation of women workers through the Kenyan Women; the production of investigative stories; partnering up with the television series ‘Ms President’; and training of reporters on women labor rights issues.
- Through awareness raising workshops done by Haki Mashinani on labor rights, 70 women have sought legal advice.
- Through the ‘Kenya Horticulture Project’, implemented by the KHRC and Traidcraft Exchange, the Flamingo Horticulture Kenya (FHK) raised the minimum price of fine beans from 55 to 61 Kenya shillings and committed themselves to purchase a minimum volume of 1,5000 kilograms on a weekly basis. Through this commitment the farmers have a more predictable income and food waste is prevented.