Fair pay, a thorny issue in flower farms

Blog by Caroline Wahome, February 14, 2019

By Caroline Wahome

Cynthia*(34) was overjoyed when she got a job at a flower farm in Limuru. She had been searching for over two years and chances kept getting slimmer as unemployment in Kenya continued to rise. There was a caveat though from her new employer: she had to find a place to leave her two-year old daughter as she went to work, since the farm’s crèche was full. She agreed to it.

Cynthia, out of fear of losing her newfound job, did not reveal to the management that she couldn’t afford alternative shelter for her child. In the hours that Cynthia reported for work, between 7 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, she would therefore lock her child up in the house.

It was only after she confided to a colleague that she was locking up her daughter at home and the colleague took up the matter to the management that her daughter was rescued.

“On learning about it, I told Cynthia that I would inform the management. She was afraid to lose her job as the farm had taken her in on condition that she got somewhere she could leave her child,” said Josephine Wanja.

“I told her we would know how to proceed in case she got fired.”

The management took in her child to the already over-crowded crèche. Cynthia couldn’t be more grateful. She is happy to work at the farm never mind that she earns Sh6,500 ($65), a pay way below the proposed living wage in Kenya of Sh18,200 ($182).

Many flower farms have put up play schools and nurseries where workers can leave their children during work hours. Due to their low salaries, workers cannot afford to employ domestic workers to look after the children hence most farms have crèche to cater for this.

This Valentines, Women@Work Campaign continues to advocate for better working conditions for flower farm workers through a social media campaign together with partners FEMNET and Kenya Human Rights Commission.

* Not her real name