BY MAY 26, 2020·
The Women@Work campaign remains at the forefront in advocating for the implementation of women labor rights. These rights include issues of maternity protection, equal pay, fair distribution of labor and decent working environment.
Through this campaign, the Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA-Kenya) has worked with stakeholders in the cut flower industry to ensure that flower farms apply gender sensitive policies and practices, and respect human rights.
“We are working with key players to ensure that women are not discriminated upon whether in pay, promotions or even access to rights unique to them including maternity leave,” Hanna Gathoni, an advocate at FIDA-kenya explains.
Overall, the Women@Work campaign has promoted the education and training of workers on critical issues such as sexual harassment.
Various partners working alongside Hivos towards the attainment of decent work for women have emphasized that training and professional development of women is key towards sustainable empowerment of women.
Within this context, efforts that FIDA-Kenya has made towards an encompassing and robust legal framework cannot be over-emphasised.
Even though the women lawyers have laid bare time and time again the many times that the legal framework has let women down for its lack of implementation, forward looking changes are in the pipeline.
While evaluating labour institutions, employment policies, and women’s rights, FIDA-Kenya observes that “companies have adopted internal policies to deal with workers’ rights and obligations.”
Further adding that: “These policies are to a large extent informed by laws and codes of practice applicable to different workplaces. Most women workers reported that they receive house and medical allowance.”
Speaking to women on select flower farms on issues of women labour rights, FIDA-Kenya explains that a bigger proportion of women interviewed indicated they had gone on maternity leave with full pay.
“There are many progressive legal and organizational policy provisions for women’s rights as workers. But we still have challenges when it comes to the level of understanding by workers of their rights as provided for in the labor laws,” says Gathoni.
FIDA-Kenya has remained steadfast in addressing the situation of women workers and has decried the mismatch between legislation, organizational policy and reality.
The cut flower industry falls under the Ministry of Agriculture with applicable laws including the Employment Act, Labor Relations Act, Labor Institutions Act, Work Injury Benefits Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
“We are certain that with time, workers will enjoy the full benefits at their disposal under the law. This gap that exists between policy and implementation will begin to narrow,” she says.
A past report by the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) titled Wilting in Bloom, documents the working conditions of women in flower flowers, the law is extremely extensive.
The report reads in part: “The legal provisions on non-discrimination, equal pay for equal work, prohibition of sexual harassment, provision of maternity and paternity leave, prohibition of unfair termination of employment, protection of employee health were found to lay a solid ground for the protection of workers.”
According to Haki Mashinani’s Salome Odera, flower farms can strengthen their systems to support the empowerment of women through their human rights policies, and through establishing gender committees.
“Since this campaign began, we have seen an increase in gender committees in various flower farms. This is a very significant development,” she says.
Odera said that membership of gender committees is made of both male and female. “These committees are essentially the first respondents when an issue occurs in the flower farm such as sexual harassment,” she says.
While there is a long road ahead before issues facing women working in flower farms are resolved, the Women@Work campaign has made significant progress towards addressing them.
As a result, an increasing number of flower farms are embracing an engendered working environment.
Even more encouraging is that more female workers are agreeing that they have access to rights such as paid maternity leave.
Others have said that flower farms have set aside a crèche for breastfeeding, and that those with infants can report to work an hour later to enable them to breastfeed their babies before fully immersing themselves in their duties.
Based on this positive progress, there is no doubt that the Women@Work has made a difference in the lives of many women working in the flower farms.
This article was originally published in the Kenyan Woman Newspaper Click here to read original article