Blossoming Women’s Leadership for Decent Work in the Horticultural Sector in Kenya
The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is a feminist, pan-African organization with over 500 individual and institutional members in 43 countries in Africa and in the diaspora working to amplify African women’s voices and advance women’s rights.
Established in 1988 with her secretariat based in Nairobi, Kenya, FEMNET continues to strengthen the role and contribution of African CSOs focusing on women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Over the years FEMNET has played a central role in facilitating the sharing of information, experiences, ideas and strategies among African women’s NGOs and individual activists as a strategy for strengthening women’s capacity to participate effectively in development processes at different levels.
FEMNET has played a lead role in building the women’s movement in Africa and has ensured that African women voices are amplified and influence decisions made at national, regional and global levels, which have direct and indirect impact on their lives.
According to Dinah Musindarwezo, Executive Director, FEMNET, they joined other organisations under the Women@Work campaign in August 2017.
This partnership seeks to “Promote Gender Equality and Decent Work in the Horticulture Sector in Eastern Africa”. “ FEMNET coordinated the rolling out of the first quarter activities (August – November 2017) under the co-designed Women Leadership project by Hivos, Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) and other partners in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda,” says Musindarwezo.
She added that specifically, FEMNET implemented key project interventions in Kenya and Uganda, which sought to strengthen leadership capacities of women and a few men workers in horticulture farms in Uganda and Kenya.
“This would incrementally result in increased number of women in leadership influencing changes at personal level and farm level policies and practices and ultimately,. greater respect of gender equality and decent work in the horticulture sector in policy and practice,” says Musindarwezo.
FEMNET has been working closely with the flower farm workers, sensitizing them on their rights and how to exercise them in the world of work. They held a Training of Trainers (ToT) on the same in Naivasha, from 27th to 30th November 2017, bringing together 18 women workers and 9 men workers from 10 different farms in Nanyuki and Naivasha i.e. Kenya Horticultural Exporters (KHE), Tambuzi, and Equinox from Nanyuki. Nini farm, Karuturi, Flamingo, Van den Berg, Wildfire, Kingfisher, and Florensis from Naivasha. To leverage on country level partnership, they liaised with Workers Rights Watch, Ufadhili Trust and Haki Mashinani to mobilize and include workers from farms they are partnering with in Naivasha.
The Uganda Training of Trainers was held in Kampala, from 23rd to 27th October 2017, bringing together 14 women workers and 6 men workers from UgaRose, Royal van Zante, RoseBud and Fiduga farms. An additional 14 partner representatives from women’s rights organizations and labour movement in Uganda under the Hivos Women@Work campaign were also trained during the Training of Trainers.
According to FEMNET’s Project Coordinator, Rachel Kagoiya, FEMNET will continue partnering with Hivos, AMwA and other partners in the next 2 years to implement and complete various interventions under the women leadership strategy in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – so as to leverage the agency of progressive women leadership in the horticulture sector to improve and entrench gender responsive practices and advance a culture of decent working conditions for women.
Ms. Kagoiya indicates that during the Training of Trainers in Kenya and Uganda, FEMNET strategically included a few men workers, recognizing majority of them are leading various committees in the farms and unions and therefore the need to empower them to not only be champions for gender equality and women’s leadership but also to deconstruct patriarchal mindsets and notions that often slow and block efforts towards equality and women’s leadership.
According to her, the ToTs were successful. “All the trainnes attested to being empowered and inspired to nurture their leadership potentials and share their learnings with their fellow colleagues in their respective farms. In addition, the trainees were equipped with knowledge on labour rights and with practical skills on financial literacy, feminist leadership, movement building and action planning.”
The ToTs were also critical in raising awareness on the current challenges facing women workers in the sector and facilitated trainees’ appreciation of their agency in consciously amplifying their voices on these challenges and need for collective action. It was evident women in the horticultural sector still face many challenges; and the women’s leadership strategy was certainly timely and we trust it will contribute to the struggle for #DecentWork4Women.
Uniquely, FEMNET worked closely with Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) to develop a customized Curriculum on Women’s Leadership in Horticulture sector.
“The Customized Curriculum dubbed “Women Leadership in the Horticultural Sector Curriculum”, was based on the renowned AMwA flagship programme, the African Women Leadership Institute, and was specifically tailored to meet the needs of the workers from the horticultural sector to include modules on financial literacy, globalization and labour issues. The Curriculum was used during the ToT in Uganda and Kenya.
Musindarwezo says the deliberate design of the Women Leadership Strategy includes a mentorship component so as to ensure that the trainees’ journey goes beyond the ToTs in Uganda and Kenya and they are supported to horn their acquired knowledge and refine their leadership skills, grow together and meaningfully engage in leadership and decision making processes be it at farm level, union or community level. The mentorship guide developed will be tested during the follow up meetings this year.
FEMNET also engaged and influenced regional and international processes on gender equality and decent work that include the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD) and the 2017 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).
As with other regional and global spaces, the multi-diversity of the representation at the 2017 ARFSD called for FEMNET to be keen and involved in various stages of advocacy, discussion and drafting to ensure the language around key issues they were advocating for were captured well and remained till the end when the statement was presented as the final adopted statement.
“We were advocating for meaningful and inclusive participation of women in the full data cycle (collection, analysis and dissemination). We call for ‘equal pay for work of equal value’. We also called for concerted action to transform labour markets for women’s paid and unpaid care work; including strengthening comprehensive social protection systems and the upholding of human and labour rights in the world of work. Finally we call for increasing domestic revenue through curbing illicit financial flows (IFFs) and instituting gender-just tax policies and systems,” says Kagoiya.