Hivos website







Citizen Agency Cafe

Voices of rightsholders

View Page

The world’s social fabric is almost at a breaking point. The harsh realities of economic stagnation, the climate crisis, gender inequality, oppression of human rights, and grinding poverty relentlessly propel injustice and unfairness. We continually see people arriving at the brink of hunger, unable to access basic social services, or excluded from social and economic participation because of their gender, ethnic origin or sexual identity.

But in the face of this extreme inequality, diverse voices have emerged to demand accountability from different levels of governance. The rise of citizen agency has given a courageous response to the status quo by creating social change movements for justice and equality. To help foster citizen agency, Hivos joined forces with Article 19 and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to support civil society organizations that amplify the voices of citizens calling for social change. In an exciting five-year partnership, we executed four Strategic Partnerships programs funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in low and middle income countries in East and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In East Africa, the programs were implemented in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi under four thematic areas: Decent Work for Women, Open up Contracting, Green and Inclusive Energy, and Sustainable Diets for All.

We celebrate the diverse voices and the rightsholders who were agents of change pushing for gender inclusion in renewable energy, transparency in the extractives sector through beneficial ownership, dignified work for women in the horticultural sector, and healthy and affordable diets for low-income populations in Kenya and Uganda.

Diverse voices in Uganda’s food system

Robinah Bwita is a restaurant owner in Fort Portal, Uganda. Even though she operated the restaurant for close to 10 years, she had not really understood her role in the food ecosystem or the importance of diverse and nutritious foods. Her eye-opening moment came later when she discovered the Sustainable Diets for All program’s “food change lab” run in partnership with the Kabarole Research Center. Her participation in the lab’s Food Summit and subsequent engagement with fellow food vendors and city law enforcement officers brought about a big change. Robinah signed up to be part of the lab’s “coalition of the willing” – a group of stakeholders brought together by common concerns and the change they desired to see in the food system.

 

Citizen Agency Consortium Cafe about Sustainable Diets for All
All illustrations in this article are created by Hivos/NoahMukono

"I first incorporated traditional foods in our menu three years ago thanks to Hivos and IIED’s program on Sustainable Diets For All, and I’m happy to report that I have seen an influx of customers in my restaurant."

She attributed finding her voice to the Sustainable Diets for All platform, where she learned the importance of her role in promoting nutritious foods and diets and influencing policy as a food vendor.

The right to decent work as a flower farm worker

Josephine Wanja joined a flower farm as a rose picker 20 years ago. While she was keen to put her skills to use and earn an income, her hopes were dashed by the working conditions she found. The 35 dollars a month she earned was far less than her 10 hours of work a day were worth. Sexual harassment further exacerbated the bad pay and working conditions, together with no reporting mechanisms for victims or way to hold perpetrators accountable.

 

Citizen Agency Consortium Cafe about Women at Work

"We would be issued with warning letters all the time without just cause, and had workers do evening shifts without hot meals. This did not sit well with me, and I knew I had to use my voice to get something done."

As soon as she was elected a union representative, she would use her new position to negotiate for flexible working hours, to stop warning letters, and to fight for hot meals for workers who worked until late in the evening.

Josephine’s involvement with the Women@Work campaign included being trained in leadership, which gave her the confidence to defend the rights of women workers on the flower farm - particularly when it came to fair pay and safe work spaces.

Today, with an elevated voice, she speaks of a promising future where women on flower farms can work with dignity, speak up, and have decision-making power to influence their work environment.

Transparency and dignified work in Tanzania’s mining sector

Salma Kundi is currently the Secretary General of the Tanzania Women Miners Association (TAWOMA).  Her strong leadership has steered cooperation with international organizations towards TAWOMA’s vision of ending poverty and enabling women to achieve dignified proceeds from their trade.

Citizen Agency Consortium Cafe about Open Contracting

 

Having been a miner herself, Salma identifies with the issues women in the sector have to grapple with. Corruption and lack of transparency have affected women disproportionately, especially in a sector where mining is associated with masculinity and automatically favors men.

Five years ago, she forged a partnership with Haki Rasilimali through Hivos’ Open Up Contracting program. The idea was to hold community-led barazas (workshops) that teach women about laws governing access to information, and transparency initiatives like the Tanzania Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (TEITI). Among others, the workshops have trained women to apply for mining licenses electronically so they wouldn’t fall prey to middlemen and mining contractors who could misuse their licenses to access the mines.

Today, she is proud to see the adoption of the beneficial ownership approach to the extractives sector at the national level. Beneficial ownership is a transparency practice that reveals the real and ultimate beneficiaries of a company's proceeds. This will both expose politically-connected persons benefiting from the mines and offer women a dignified income from their labor.

Equity in the decentralization of renewable energy

Kefas Okaka is the CEO of BioMakaa, a manufacturing company in Kenya that recycles waste to produce briquettes. When the government banned charcoal to stop deforestation in the country, he saw an opportunity to provide an alternative source of energy for clean cooking with bio-briquettes.

Citizen Agency Consortium Cafe about Green and Inclusive Energy

His business initially targeted populations living in Nairobi’s low-income areas such as Mathare, Mwiki, and Githurai, as well as hotels and restaurants, and has since expanded to the rest of the city.

Kefas was selected to join Hivos East Africa’s Renewable Energy Advocacy Leadership training executed under the Green and Inclusive Energy program. The training imparted specific knowledge and skills in advancing renewable energy solutions and linked him to like-minded partners.

With a better understanding of how to use marketing and networking, he recruited a team of marketers to educate potential customers about the value of clean energy for clean cooking. His business BioMakaa has also started empowering local communities, especially  women and youth groups, to venture into the bio-briquette business.

‘’The Covid-19 pandemic created an opportunity for my business with more demands from households seeking affordable sources of energy necessary for clean cooking,’’ he said. Kefa envisions a future where more citizens are able to directly benefit from decentralized renewable energy systems.

Citizen Agency

Cafe

Watch video Watch video

Celebrating big wins

Celebrating big wins

We celebrate the diverse voices and rightsholders who were agents of change pushing for gender inclusion in renewable energy, transparency in the extractives sector through beneficial ownership, dignified work for women in the horticultural sector, and healthy and affordable diets for low-income populations.

In Uganda, the use of food diaries was introduced. The diaries provided more diverse data for local health officials and gave citizens an opportunity to influence policy and raise awareness on the need to consume nutritious and healthy diets.

Through the Energy Safari in Tanzania, we harnessed the power of the media by engaging with environmental journalists

When Kenya’s Makueni County adopted the open contracting approach, this sparked a national debate around citizen’s participation in open governance and the demand for transparency and accountability.

To date, up to 100 farms in East Africa have adopted model sexual harassment policies, thus bringing the region closer to ending gender-based violence on flower farms. work.

Citizen Agency Consortium

To help foster citizen agency, Hivos joined forces with Article 19 and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to support civil society organizations that amplify the voices of citizens calling for social change. In an exciting five-year partnership, we executed four Strategic Partnerships programs funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in low and middle income countries in East and Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Food diaries

Even before Covid-19, obesity and hunger were emerging as a global pandemic. This is why healthy, affordable and sustainable diets in food systems have become critical in keeping populations healthy.

Our experience in the sustainable food movement has shown us that sustainable diets are a public health concern that needs urgent action. Not just by influencing farmers, but through disrupting the food system and engaging a variety of stakeholders, from citizens to food vendors and governments. This was the approach we implemented through coalitions that built credible relationships to carry out food security advocacy. 

In Uganda for example, the Sustainable Diets for all Program introduced the use of food diaries as an innovative way for households to take part in research around healthy foods prepared and consumed at home. Their diaries provided more diverse data for local health officials and gave citizens an opportunity to influence policy and raise awareness on the need to consume nutritious and healthy diets.

Journalists as allies in climate justice

The Renewable Energy debate has often been focused on national macro-energy initiatives to connect everyone to the grid. Most of these initiatives have not been attuned to the needs of consumers when it comes to gender and health priorities. With little knowledge of how decentralized energy can provide clean cooking options and support livelihoods, poor communities have also been locked out of the green energy economy. Hivos East Africa’s Green and Inclusive Energy Program has acted to fill the knowledge gap and help end energy poverty by engaging journalists in the energy debate, particularly in countries such as Tanzania. Through its Energy Safari in Tanzania, the program harnessed the power of the media by engaging with environmental journalists. The energy safaris showed them the importance of decentralized renewable energy and their role in creating awareness in both local communities and the halls of power.

Front-runner county government adopts open contracting

When Kenya’s Makueni County adopted the open contracting approach, this sparked a national debate around citizen’s participation in open governance and the demand for transparency and accountability in public procurement. 

Public procurement is the single largest government expenditure (in volumes), with a global estimate of USD 13 trillion annually. According to the Uwezo Fund, Kenya’s government spends up to KES 13 billion annually to supply essential goods and services to citizens. Doing this more efficiently would bring about an enormous socio-economic transformation. 

In 2018, Makueni County partnered with Hivos East Africa and Development Gateway to begin the process of setting up the first open contracting portal to be adopted by a sub-national government in Kenya. Officially launched in 2019, the portal provides user-friendly and real-time procurement data expected to fast-track clean procurement, saving time, money and increasing efficiency. To date, the portal has saved the transport department more than KES 11 million (101,000 USD).

Ending sexual harassment in flower farms

The UN’s 2020 “16 Days of Ending Violence against Women” campaign (November 25 – December 10) also marks the one-year anniversary of the adoption of ILOC190 in June 2019 at the International Labour Conference. The landmark decision was a win for women’s rights, particularly in promoting safe work spaces with zero tolerance for violence and harassment in the world of work.

The culmination of this progress also represented years of movement building around safeguarding policies at the workplace that Hivos East Africa has been championing through its Women@Work campaign. Implemented in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda, the campaign works to improve labor conditions of women working in the multibillion horticultural sectors. It advocates for decent work and calls on both the government and the private sector to be responsive to the plight of women workers.

In Kenya, we celebrate front-runner flower farms such as Tambuzi Ltd that have played a critical role in influencing other flower farms to adopt ethical practices in their businesses. To date, up to 100 farms in East Africa have adopted model sexual harassment policies, thus bringing the region closer to ending gender-based violence on flower farms.