By Caroline Wahome
Hivos continues to intensify its campaign to improve working conditions for women in horticulture industry in Eastern Africa and pave their paths to leadership under the Women@Work Campaign.
Together with Akina Mama wa Africa (AMWA) and African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), approximately 55 flower farm workers (39 female and 16 male) have been trained as Trainers of Trainers (ToT) under the theme “Blossoming Women’s Leadership for Decent Work in the Eastern Africa Horticultural Sector”. The trained workers were derived from three flower farms in Uganda and 10 in Kenya.
At the training, participants deliberated on diverse challenges that they face at the work place among them sexual harassment, low pay and low representation of women in leadership. The discussions centred on uptake of skills for transformative women leadership, gender inclusiveness and how to respond to inadequate voices of women in trade unions: Gender roles and gender stereotyping – What are the things women are supposed to do versus men in the flower farm? Additionally, how power and patriarchy plays out in the society was discussed. Amongst some of the misconceptions highlighted that occur in flower farms in relation to gender roles included: That men’s role is to support the ‘heavy’ work such as planting and spraying of flowers; ladies are ‘weak’ and should not work for long hours and that a woman is not allowed to spray chemicals on the flowers in the farm, but they can cut and pack the flowers.
“The notion that only men should spray the flowers is the misconception that men are more masculine and have the strength to do that work of spraying because the spraying suit is too heavy for women to wear. The reality is that if the suit is too heavy for women to wear, then the companies should get suits that can be worn by women” – Participant, Kenya ToT
Participants reported greater awareness from the sessions identifying societal gender defined roles, values and expectations that need to change and pave way for an equal playing field as men. These include patriarchal based unconscious biases that manifest during hiring, promotion and or appraisal processes resulting in higher value placed on men as opposed to women; the need to dismantle gender stereotypes of masculinity and femininity for example in the shared responsibility of males and females in child upbringing a major challenge in the sector due to informal nature of relationships; and that women must be viewed as leaders too with necessary skills and attributes and where their voices, concerns and opinions matter and are captured in all conversations and decision making tables.
The Hivos Women’s Leadership Strategy is premised on the belief that by enhancing the leadership skills and opportunities of women workers; supporting them to overcome barriers to leadership, confronting limiting attitudes towards women in the workplace, anchoring gender diversity strategies in a compelling business case, empowering firms to prioritize gender diversity and improve work place policies will ultimately enable women to build their competence and seek leadership positions.
Hivos Women@Work Campaign is implementing the leadership project in partnership with AMWA, Uganda Workers Education Association (UWEA), Uganda Horticulture industrial, Service Providers and Allied Workers Union (UHISPAWU), FEMNET Kenya, Rwanda Workers Trade Union Confederation (CESTRAR) and Rwanda Women’s Network.