The project and the current trend where companies in most horticulture sector in Kenya have adopted Sexual Harassment Policy at the work place represents a shared vision for a better and more dignified future; a future in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities work can offer, and in which the corporate citizens’ right to work and rights at the work place can be realised. In this unprecedented move of increasing pragmatic partnership between civil society organizations and companies, and in the context of increased number of women joining labour force albeit in precarious positions, a policy that prohibits and deters sexual harassment is a radical amendment of the workplace.
On the one hand it asserts women’s right to work while on the other it creates moral consciousness at work which can stimulate trade union action as well as workers’ activism on various questions of rights at work. What I mean is that once workers (men and women) agree on a dignified work place for women, they are more likely to unite to deploy their energy towards other facets of workplace engagements such as clean and safe working environment, maternity care, fair wages among other welfare questions. The work done by Workers’ Rights Watch (WRW) as documented here provides yet another insight. That is, women led organizations tend to offer much more resilience and strategic staying power.
I say this because amongst the various organizations of workers and those who work for workers’ solidarity that emerged in Kenya in the year 2000, it is only the WRW that has remained consistent focused and results based. Equally, the account of WRW in this report sheds light not only to this history of consistency but much more to the changing methodology of labour and human rights activism. The work on promotion of policy that safeguards workers against sexual harassment started not as a policy proposition but rather as an antagonistic and confrontational ‘naming and shaming’ campaign. We realise from the work of the WRW how they exposed and ashamed companies that condoned or those that took a turn to the blind corner on this matter. After many years of naming and shamming, the companies were faced with some sort of moral crisis in situation where their women workers were exposed to indignity. It seems that it is at this stage that they turned to organisations like WRW not as villains any more but as some sort of moral consciousness.
The WRW was under focus this time not to name and shame, but rather with request to share a vision of ‘freedom for women at the workplace’. In changing its method of work, the Women Working World Wide (WWW) and later the Women at Work Campaign provided the WRW with the tools for negotiating and providing framework for policy that would insulate women against T April 2012 – July 2019 April 2012 – July 2019 3 sexual harassment at the work place. The methods proposed by the WWW were evidence based and deployed good practices from elsewhere emboldening the voice of WRW. This methodological shift has positioned WRW as an authority not only because of their ability to offer propositions of policy content but more so because they are trusted by workers. It seems to me that manager and company leaders who accept to collaborate with the WRW do so because they consider them (WRW) as legitimate partners with authority of law and activism. This is an excellent fete and a resource worth investing in. Finally, I have admired the ownership that workers have on various outcome of this work. When I met a few of them a couple of months ago, very few of them spent time in praise of WRW and its leadership. Rather stories were about what they have done after trainings and in protecting the policy that criminalise sexual harassment at the work place. What we have here is an achievement whose imprints shall advance our society towards more freedom for women workers in Kenya. Viva Worker’s Rights