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Gender, business and human rights

Gender, business and human rights lay at the core of our program. We want businesses to protect the human rights of their workers, paying special attention to the needs of women workers. In horticulture, the majority of the jobs are done by women. It is believed that women inhibit a natural delicacy and are therefore better suited to pick flowers or vegetables. Secondly,  women do these jobs because they are poorly paid. If the salaries were higher, the jobs would be most likely occupied by men due to the nature of society in many of the producing countries.

Women face different challenges than men. Although women and men are equal, they are not the same. To address workers’ challenges therefore needs a gendered approach.

In recent years, there has been more attention for business and human rights. In 2011, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council. These principles set forth the state’s duty to protect human rights; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the access to remedy. Currently, negotiations are underway to draft a binding treaty on the same.

The Women@Work Campaign encourages companies to take their responsibility in improving the rights and working conditions of women workers. By engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR), businesses can have a positive social, environmental and economic impact while also demonstrating to consumers that they are accountable and ethical.

The Campaign shows businesses how they can benefit from respecting workers’ rights. Improving women’s labor rights is not only beneficial to the quality of life of the workers and their families, but is also in the interest of the companies involved. More motivated staff leads to better quality products, higher productivity levels and less absenteeism. Investing in women also benefits companies' corporate image and delivers better opportunities in the market between CSR-responsible retailers and conscious consumers.

Our work

We want the horticulture value chains to be gender-inclusive. This means that women workers are being integrated in a stable and beneficial supply chain. They are trained and coached to operate in an efficient way and produce quality products.

Through the portal CSR Africa, we provide horticulture firms with insights into the sector's social performance, detailed and business positive improvement advice and connections to service providers for implementation of improvements. The portal also helps companies in the sector to see where they stand from a CSR perspective.

We lobby for a binding treaty on business and human rights, that incorporates a gender lens. We also attend every year the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights to put the gender issue forward.

Our accomplishments

  • CSR Africa has been launched in Kenya and has conducted ten social impact scan.
  • Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) developed a gender audit tool for companies, which has been implemented at three farms in Uganda and one farm in Rwanda. This is a gender mainstreaming tool which helps flower farms to facilitate and guide the process of making the workplace accommodating to workers while taking into account the contextual needs of men and women.
  • Through the Women@Work Campaign, 9 farms in Uganda have developed and adopted gender responsive policies and practices.
  • In Malawi, our partner Egisa trained women farmers on business skills, learning them how to turn agriculture into a business.
  • Ufadhili Trust has audited the CSR policies of 5 farms in Kenya, held one CSR workshop 15 farms and organizations in Kenya, one in Uganda for nine farms and one in Kenya fro media and civil society organizations.
  • The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) contributed to the development of the Kenyan National Action Plan Business & Human Rights. In Uganda, FIDA-Uganda did the same.
  • Hivos and KHRC were invited by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights  to participate in a technical meeting on the development of a Guidance on Applying a Gender Lens to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • At the international conference ‘The Only Way is Up!’, about living wage and living income in the agri-food sector and co-organized by Hivos, the Women@Work Campaign organized a session on the gendered aspect of living wage.
  • The Women@Work Campaign participated in the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
  • AMwA produced a movie to lift the veil on the experiences of women working on flower farms.
  • Hivos East Africa made the movie ‘Wilting in bloom: lived experiences of women workers’ to show the experience of flower pickers at CSW in 2019.

Related news and views

  • Gender-based violence risk spikes on farms


    Lockdown measures imposed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are putting women at heightened risk of gender-based violence (GBV) at home and cutting them off from essential protection services and social networks. This was revealed in a Hivos-commissioned survey by Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ) titled Impact of Covid-19 on the Horticulture Sector in Zimbabwe. The survey was conducted in May 2020.

  • Standing strong with a positive attitude: interview with Esther Nekambi


    In this interview Esther Nekambi, Director of the Uganda Flower Exporter Association (UFEA), sheds some light on the challenges women workers face and how an organization like UFEA can help.

  • Promoting women rights in flower farms is good for business


    Examining the gendered needs and rights of employees working in the flower farms has never been timelier. While women account for 70 to 80 percent of workers in the highly lucrative horticulture sector, they are often in seasonal employment or taking on board as casual laborers. Since they are encumbered by the reproductive and care roles, flower farms seems to prefer men to women when it comes to permanent employment.