Sexual harassment is prevalent in the horticulture sector. Women are hired to do the lowest-paid jobs, whereas men often fulfill supervisory or managerial roles. This imbalance of power, combined with wages too low to live a decent life, leads to many sexual harassment incidents.
Even though national legislation often requires sexual harassment policies at the workplace, many farms lack such a policy or don't enforce it. Due to cultural factors, sexual harassment is oftentimes not seen as socially wrong, which means that people do not report the incidences. The gender committees who are assigned to deal with cases of sexual harassment do often not have the time, space or technical capacity to do so.
In 2015, Workers’ Rights Watch in collaboration with Women Working Worldwide and funded by Hivos, developed the model sexual harassment policy. This policy provides a definition for sexual harassment and a framework of measures and structures to combat sexual harassment at the workplace. The Women@Work Campaign works with farms for the adoption and implementation of the policy.
Furthermore, the Campaign trains farm management and gender committees on how to minimize sexual harassment and deal with cases reported. We also sensitize workers about the definition of sexual harassment, so they can identify sexual misconduct.
Through the social performance impact scan, offered and conducted by CSR Africa, companies can get an insight into the levels of sexual harassment at their farm as well as advice on measures they can take to reduce it.
Our work does not stop at the farm level. We lobby national governments to improve legislation around workplace sexual harassment, both at the national and international level. Through public campaigning, we make consumers more aware about the dark side of the flower industry and help them to make better choices.
Our multi-stakeholder approach, working with workers, farm management and government has paid off. Since the start of the Campaign, over 200 farms have adopted and implemented the model sexual harassment policy. More than 85 gender committees have been set up and/or trained to deal with sexual harassment cases. The model sexual harassment policy has been translated into local languages, and over 12,000 workers have been trained and sensitized about the topic of sexual harassment. Training of women workers has resulted in an increase in reporting of sexual harassment cases. Contributing to that is the self-help sexual harassment evidence collection tool, which has been developed by the Platform for Labour Action (PLA).
Also the Kenya Flower Council and Fairtrade Africa have adopted the model sexual harassment policy as the standard framework for addressing sexual harassment at Kenyan flower farms, and they have begun the process of incorporating these commitments into the text of their certification audit framework. In Uganda, the policy has been adopted as a horticulture sector policy to be entrenched into the sector Corporate Binding Agreement (CBA), which is binding to all horticulture farms under Uganda Flowers Exporters Association (UFEA).
On the international level, the Women@Work Campaign has lobbied for the adoption of the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention (C190) through opinion articles, online campaigns and talks with the government. We have also created awareness around the topic at international platforms; for example, through the organization of side-events during the Commission on the Status of Women.