Workers Right Watch (WRW), Is a non-governmental organization established in 2000 as an association of women shop floor /opinion leaders (shop steward) in Kenya. WRW mandate is to foster collaborative dialogue between women workers and actors who affect and those affected by their work. It was born out of a concern that gender based violence was rampant and social ethical business practices were not being followed in the industries despite there being voluntary systems of self-regulation by way of audits and labour inspections. With various cases witnessed on gender inequity in their work environment yet their voices remained undermined by the management, these women decided that, through organizing, they could have their voices heard and advocate for improved working conditions that fully respect women and human rights at the workplaces.
In promoting this dialogue, Workers rights watch have always believed that complimentary role exists between NGOs and other stakeholders. WRW takes cognizance of the restrictive nature of the current provision of the rights to organize and that women workers representatives especially at the shop floor level are vulnerable to intimidation by both the management and top union leadership so there is need to have their voices amplified through empowerment.
Since 2012 to date, WRW has partnered with various organizations such as Hivos International/East Africa, Women Working Worldwide, Women Win and Africa Women’s Development and Communication network( FEMNET) in eliminating sexual harassment in the cut flower sector where majority of employees are women. This journey was motivated by a study that was conducted by Workers Rights Watch and Women Working Worldwide with support from Hivos. The study purposed to establish the existence and extent of sexual harassment in the fresh cut flower sector. In consultation with key actors within the sector, a friendly and model policy that would not only motivate women workers to report incidences but would also guarantee that there would be no retaliations leveled against victims while striving to win high level of workers’ trust was generated. It clearly outlined the roles and responsibilities of all the players within the horticultural ecosystem.
This model policy on sexual harassment which we consider as a significant milestone, was developed with frontline support from flowers farms through Kenya Flower Council (KFC), Fairtrade Africa (FTA) and other key players. Further, it was adopted and benchmarked by 40 HR Managers from selected flower farms against a developed Internal Checklist. Over the years, our efforts have focused on rallying together diverse actors from private sector and civil society towards correcting and challenging normalized practices, knowledge and attitude across lines of gender disparity and sexuality, and much more. WRW is proud to have been part of this movement that catalyzed this positive workplace disruption confronting long held beliefs and practices on sexual harassment. It thrills my heart to note that unlike before, women workers including men in the piloted farms are basking in these gains that have cultivated a mutually beneficial and conducive work place free from various forms of sexual harassment. As a frontline member of FEMNET, it is also worthy to note that the adoption of the ILO Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work (ILO Convention 190) not only forms a solid legal framework but also heralds a new dawn to safeguard and champion for a sexual harassment free work place.
We’re excited that we have and will continue enhancing capacities of women workers/other workers including management in the fresh cut flower industry giving them the critical skills and tools they need to get there. Despite the gains made so far, the hard part of sustaining these gains now begins. However, we am highly optimistic and confident that we shall continue working together in weaving safe havens at the workplace that guarantee and safeguard women’s rights and freedom to work in environments free from all forms of Gender BV/sexual harassment.