COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in severe consequences to the global economy. The surging economic crisis being witnessed globally has further widened existing gaps in countries’ preparedness and response systems. With the world’s economy largely relying on agriculture, the horticulture sector is rated among the top foreign exchange earners with Kenya ranked as the leading exporter of fresh produce and cut flowers to the European market. Within the horticulture sector, floriculture has been one of the worst hit by the pandemic recording huge losses due to lockdowns, closure of flowers markets in Europe and cancellation of international flights.
Under the Women@Work campaign, Hivos commissioned a rapid assessment that was conducted and analyzed by FEMNET and KHRC. The findings from the assessment highlighted the severe impacts that the pandemic has had on women workers who are the majority in the floriculture sector in Kenya – including massive layoffs, salary cuts, forced unpaid leaves, increased burden of care, starvation, evictions from their houses, psychological and mental struggles and gender based violence.
The study recommends that the government expand COVID-19 social protections for workers who have lost their jobs, regulate the prices of food and other essential goods, and offer free mass testing, personal protective equipment, quarantine services and healthcare for the horticultural sector, amongst other measures. It also recommends and affirms the role of CSOs in fostering dialogue amongst sector players, sensitizing workers on COVID-19 measures and mobilizing global markets and partners to stand in solidarity and support workers livelihoods greatly impacted by the pandemic.
FEMNET, as part of the Hivos-led Women@Work campaign, has been enhancing the leadership capacities of women working and leading committees in pilot flower farms in Kenya. As a result, these trained women leaders have been influencing and leading in advocating for decent work and equal representation. FEMNET has also partnered with the management in these farms in reviewing and institutionalizing gender-responsive policies and practices.