In 2012, Hivos started the Women@Work campaign to bring about decent work for women who earn their living in global production chains, specifically in the flower industry. Since relatively high numbers of women work in this sector, and Hivos has long worked with partners who are committed to working on women’s rights, we focused our campaign on:
- capacity development, specifically in countries in East Africa
- advocating for enforcement of women workers’ rights and their economic empowerment as part of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and implementation of decent work for women
- highlighting women’s work and rights of women workers in the flower industry through consumer action calling for fair flowers
Since 2016, Hivos has extended its Women @ Work campaign to other products in horticulture and to other regions, namely Southern Africa. The new programme, funded by and in cooperation with the Dutch government, aims to improve labour conditions for women working in global horticulture value chains by making these chains gender inclusive. Gender inclusive means that women workers are integrated in a supply chain that provides fair wages, security in the workplace and good working conditions. The programme now runs in 8 countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Netherlands plays an important role in the horticulture sector. This key position offers a unique opportunity to engage and influence governments, businesses and certification bodies to ensure better working conditions for women. The programme therefore focusses on flowers, but also beans, avocados and chilies, which show similar production characteristics: seasonal demand, fast delivery, a workforce of mainly women and comparable stakeholders. Women @ Work catalyses change by linking up stakeholders, being a constructive partner, and acting as an industry watchdog as well.
The programme supports civil society organisations in their advocacy for policy and practice change by governments and businesses to advance equal treatment and equal pay of women, to guarantee the right to decent work and to implement living wages. Women @ Work fosters cooperation between the private sector and civil society in multi-stakeholder forums to bring about gender equitable legislation, to strengthen and enforce labour policies and to promote gender inclusive private sector policies. Finally, it works on raising consumer awareness to create social pressure on businesses to change their policy and practices.
Public consumer campaign in the Netherlands
Consumer demand can be instrumental in convincing companies to provide fair products from countries or enterprises that also uphold decent work. This is why we use public campaigns, such as Power of the Fair Trade Flower in the Netherlands that targets the flower industry, to inform consumers and enable conscious purchasing behaviour in favour of fair products that are produced in the Global South. Social pressure on companies in the Netherlands can thus have a direct impact on improving corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Africa.
Women @ Work also directly targets Dutch companies to ensure they adhere to internationally agreed labour standards, the Decent Work agenda of the ILO and the OECD guidelines for corporate social responsibility, The floral industry is a major economic sector in the Netherlands, and Dutch growers play an important role in East Africa.
Living Wage Lab
Earning a living wage that enables workers to meet their basic needs is a human right. Yet for growers and retailers in the African flower sector, it seems a distant dot on the horizon. Since wages are a persistent problem in many global supply chains and cannot be solved by growers alone, Hivos and Fairfood have launched the Living Wage Lab. It brings together Netherlands-based stakeholders in the agro-food sector to develop and experiment with innovative solutions for living wages in their supply chains. The Lab is attended by participants from government, trade unions, growers, retailers, NGOs, certification bodies and researchers.