We know that women and girls’ lives are often limited in tea communities, and in Kenya it’s no different. We have been working to support vulnerable women and girls alongside the national farmer organisation, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) since 2010 when we began our social issues training at factories.
Recently we’ve been focused on improving safety and creating positive opportunities for women, and specifically workers hired by smallholder farmers, as these women are typically most vulnerable.
This programme began in 2019 and was supported and funded until June 2021 by ETP, KTDA and their Foundation as well as IDH – Sustainable Trade Initiative.
Since 2019, we have been strengthening gender reporting structures and the capacity of gender committees at five KTDA factories – recognising their value in giving workers a seat at the table to voice their opinions, thoughts, and concerns. As a result, factories have since developed new gender action plans, informed by community needs assessments, anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies and reporting mechanisms. The gender committees have been invited by local groups to also train their members and congregations.
Going beyond the immediate factory setting, 495 gender champions were trained to help demystify the norms, behaviour and perceptions that are held towards women within the wider communities surrounding the tea factories.
Gender champions have also built ongoing relationships with people of influence within the community, such as community leaders, police, and hospital staff to raise awareness of improved reporting structures for women and girls.
The programme also looked to work in new ways to tackle the root causes of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). ETP ran an innovative educational pilot, reaching 500 local motorbike taxi drivers (boda bodas) to educate and change mindsets on GBV. (In Kenya, there has been an upsurge in GBV, rape and underage pregnancies with local motorbike and taxi drivers being cited as the main perpetrators).
Alongside the work of debunking myths around GBV and improving safety for female workers,
the programme also worked to build workers’ economic resilience through community lending and savings schemes, and practical trainings on alternative income opportunities.
In June 2021, when the programme ended, there were 39 savings groups established, with over 807 members actively saving and using digitalised banking services to add contributions. Among the active savers, there were 562 women making up the majority. Tea workers are saving to invest for household emergencies and school fees, but also are starting to invest in entrepreneurial ways to add to their incomes.
Click here to learn more about community lending and savings schemes.