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Kenya: KUSPW’s actions on Sexual Harassment at the workplace.

Gender-related matters, such as sexual harassment and violence against women, are rightly taking more of the media space[1]; the challenge is for individuals to effectively identify such occurrences in their daily life. Sensitisation is a major effort to develop such understanding to enhance our response to alleged cases, share the somebody else’ plight (or situation) thanks on an increased knowledge and greater empathy. Especially if we are male union officials in a male-dominated sector.

This was the framework for a series of workshops on sexual harassment held from Sept. 26-Oct. 1 with the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation Workers (KUSPW), under the IUF Sugar/Palm Oil project. The program consisted of eight sensitising gatherings at estate level for male branch officials only, from all ten KUSPW branches, followed by a one-day workshop with female branch officials.

The gender-separated activities responded to the actual state of implementing the IUF Sugar/Palm Oil project (2015-2017), the prevalent level of understanding on the matter, and the gender composition of the branches’ leadership. It was a challenging proposal that was wholeheartedly embraced by the national KUSPW leadership.

In January this year, KUSPW elected 120 branch officials (12 officials per branch, in each of the 10 branches). Twenty-six of them were female leaders – or close to 21 percent- but changes have taken place and their numbers have decreased. This meant that at least 79 percent of branch officials are men. Accepting – based on factual evidence – that women are in an overwhelming majority the victims of sexual harassment, the challenge is clear: what a predominantly male union leadership needs to do to represent female workers/union members, who most probably may become the victims of sexual harassment.

While KUSPW female members have, under the IUF Sugar projects, advanced some work on sexual harassment (May 2015, Feb. 2016), as well as in other issues (i.e. occupational health and safety, child care facilities at the workplace), gender-separated activities were advisable at this point: they allow to build self-confidence among members to tackle sexual harassment, a highly sensitive issue, without trivialising it; to build language and concepts, and to make an effort to identify episodes of sexual harassment in what appears to be brushed aside as a “common thing.” The three latter aspects were the core of workshops with male officials talking about their own understanding of sexual harassment based on what they knew or had heard at their workplace, which was followed by an exploration of what sexual harassment is based on the best practices from the IUF global network, and ending with a discussion on whether KUSPW should be concerned with it and what can do about it.

Seventy percent of all KUSPW male branch officials attended the workshops and they signed a declaration that defines sexual harassment as a violation of human and labour rights and recommended actions for the union to take. A thrust of the recommendations was for a continued improvement of the joint work with the IUF Global Sugar and Palm Oil Program. Declaration from KUSPW Workshops on Sexual Harassment. September-October 2016

 

 

Mumias Workshop

Mumias Workshop

Nzoia Workshop

Nzoia Workshop

 

Chemelil Workshop

Chemelil Workshop

 

Muhoroni Workshop

Muhoroni Workshop

SONY Workshop

SONY Workshop

 

West Kenya Workshop

West Kenya Workshop

 

Butali Workshop

Butali Workshop

Kibos Workshop

Kibos Workshop

Participants in the Estate-level workshops

Date Branches Total male leaders in branch Male participants % of participants /total male leaders
Sept. 26 1- Mumias 8 3 37.5
2- Mumias Cane Transporters 12 5 41.6
3- Nzoia 8 8 100.0
4- Nzoia Cane Transporters 11 9 81.8
Sept. 27 5- Chemelil 8 7 87.5
6- Muhoroni 10 6 60.0
Sept. 28 7- South Nyanza (SONY) 8 7 87.5
Sept. 29 8- West Kenya (Kabras) 10 8 80.0
9- Butali 9 8 88.8
Sept. 30 10- Kibos 11 5 45.5
Sub-totals 95 66 69.5
Total number of branch officials 120 (80% of total)

After the male officials-only workshops, the program ended in a one-day workshop for female union officials in Kisumu, the heart of Kenya’s sugar belt on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The women workshop heard branch reports on sexual harassment policies (company-based or otherwise), and reviewed related national legislation and international experiences. They also confirmed the recommendations from the estate-level workshops: on one side, that once members’ self- confidence is strong enough, all-gender activities are a must; and, on the other, to further develop KUSPW’s work on sexual harassment and link it to Occupational Health and Safety matters (developed under IUF Sugar projects in 2007-2014). They called KUSPW to mobilise members under this issue in the 2017 Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28th).

A One-Day Workshop for Female Branch Officials of KUSPW

A One-Day Workshop for Female Branch Officials of KUSPW

From the IUF Global Sugar and Palm Oil Program, this activity was important as it touched on one key aspect of any sensitisation effort: the development of knowledge, understanding and empathy among union leaders, which has to be followed by conquests to consolidate such understanding.

 


[1] Writing from Peru, after the 13 August massive demonstration under the banner “Ni Una Menos” (“Not one less”) protesting the violence against women. As well, while the estate-level sugar workshops in Kenya were held “The Daily Nation” published a worth reading news: “Sexual abuse is widespread in Judiciary: Judge” available at http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Judge-admits-to-rampant-sexual-abuse-in-Judiciary/1056-3399746-format-xhtml-15si67gz/index.html


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.iuf.org/sugarworkers/kenya-kuspws-actions-sexual-harassment-workplace/

3 comments

  1. Miriam Wanyama

    This a very best thing IUF and KUSPAW has began. If this journey can end with a policy it would be the best thing that could be happening after the health and safety policy. This is because it would be a document owned by workers just like the CBA. Looking at the above meetings,it is clear that information is raw and from workers themselves than depending on a committee of experts.

  2. Caroline Busaka

    I believe with full commitment of kuspaw, we can come up with a sexual harassment policy that will be document that covers all the sugar industries unlike individual company policies. With that in place, members will be in full knowledge of what sexual harassment is, its effects on the workforce and the consequences of commiting the crime. Definately this will help eradicate the vice.

  3. Nelisiwe Nxumalo

    You have done a great job guys, I take my hat off for you and special appreciation to Jorge Chullèn for changinga people’s lives. Lastly to the CAW thank you guys for doing all this for us as Africans. I can see a familiar face on the pics I think it’s Oloo.

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