Foreword from Judith Fraats, IDH Gender Equality and Empowerment

The first IDH4Gender cross-learning event is a fact. Over 55 players, predominantly from the business side in the tea and flowers sectors in Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and Malawi, participated in the conversation on how to integrate gender into their supply chains.

Flowers and tea sectors have much in common in terms of work environment and the issues that the sectors face in terms of gender equality are of a similar nature. The cross-learning event on June 7, 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya allowed for an open and honest dialogue, discussing issues and challenges companies face around gender equality.

More concretely, participants discussed and shared how they address challenges around workplace safety, sexual harassment and leadership & empowerment policies aimed at promoting gender equality into their supply chains. With great enthusiasm, learnings and best practices were shared among the participants and across the two sectors, pushing the discussion on gender equality in supply chains to the next level.

The need to share on gender equality, female leadership & workplace sexual harassment

In both the IDH flowers and tea sector programs, companies and other actors indicated that there exists a need to share learnings, good practices and experiences about integrating gender and addressing gender issues in the workplace. Identifying this need, IDH decided to organize an event to convene business players around the topics of gender equality, female leadership and workplace sexual harassment. The aim was to create an open space for discussing, sharing and learning from a business perspective, by sharing on the ground experiences around working on gender to facilitate the replication and scaling of best practices among sectors. The event was kicked-off by an introduction of Partner Africa on workplace safety, sexual harassment and leadership & empowerment, supported by findings from social audits. After which IDH partners from the flowers and tea sectors participated in panel discussions and break-out sessions to disseminate knowledge and their hands-on experiences. This report will describe the most important take-aways, outcomes and examples from these sessions.

On an individual company level, as well as on a sector level, clear gender and HR policies can help advancing gender equality and ensure a more motivated workforce, also by reducing absenteeism, overtime hours and turnover

IDH4Gender cross-learning event


  • Sharing of knowledge and experiences between private sector companies about gender programs is crucial, since companies can more easily learn from the experiences of their peers
  • Sharing of knowledge and experiences and cooperation with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) is also key for enabling collaboration at sector level and reach a higher impact on society
  • On an individual company level, as well as on a sector level, clear gender and HR policies can help advancing gender equality and ensure a more motivated workforce, higher productivity and to reduce absenteeism, overtime hours and turnover
  • Endorsement and enforcement of gender policies by the company management is indispensable to be able to create change among worker’s behavior
  • Men and women need to move together towards equality: policies should work for and include both genders
  • Skills development and mentoring are important activities in achieving female empowerment and turning around gender stereotypes prevalent amongst women and men
  • Record keeping of gender data, such as sex-disaggregated data as well as specific gender indicators is necessary to monitor the quality of the gender interventions carried out by companies to evaluate the success as well as the changes achieved by the sector
  • Companies should look beyond training and engage in active capacity-building on gender issues with workers and management, to create positive business cases, give value to gender work and make interventions meaningful

Importance of gender policies, standards and empowerment of workers

To take a first step towards more gender equality in the workplace, all private sector panel members agreed that gender equality should be implemented on two levels:

  • On the sector level: the integration gender criteria within industries’ and sustainability standards, also through measuring sex-disaggregated data on the sector level. Sector associations can play a role in this, for example through the development of a sector-wide gender policy or a sector-wide evaluation of gender data
  • On the company level: through development and enforcement of HR and gender policies, as well as through empowerment of workers and investing in trainings and education programs on gender rights at the worker and community level.

A hands-on example was given of a male supervisor, who acted as a mentor for the female supervisor in the panel, allowing her to grow in her role. In this specific case, the male mentor provides coaching to the female supervisor on issues that come up in the field, as well as on further steps in her career.

Importance of mentorship in worker’s empowerment

Naturally, there are challenges in this work. When it comes to worker empowerment, there was a call to further empower women to become leaders. However, this can prove to be challenging, as some men do not accept to be supervised by a woman, or women do not accept that they can work at any department. A recommendation to address this specific issue is to for companies to invest in skills development for women, but also to identify male champions for gender rights, as well as women leaders in the company. The empowerment and involvement of all workers was echoed by all participating partners in the event: men and women need to move together towards achieving gender equality. In addition to this, companies and sector associations recommended for the private sector to invest in trainings and education programs on gender equality at the community level, to ensure the responsibility to respect the rights of men, women and children in the areas the farms operate.

Enforcement of policies
One of the flower companies emphasized that on their farm, there has been a clear business case for gender equality and empowerment in the workplace. In their experience, the implementation and enforcement of HR and gender policies contributed to a reduction in absenteeism rates, overtime hours and turnover. Also, an emphasis on policies and rights increased the motivation of the farm’s workers. However, a precondition for this is strong enforcement of policies, as well as a strong endorsement and buy-in of company leadership and management.



Building trust, transparency and skills development

To achieve more cooperation on a (cross-)sector level between program partners, the second panel discussion of the event started off with a call for cooperation and building trust amongst different program partners. As all companies face similar issues around gender, the need to network and knowledge sharing through platforms such as the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative and the tea sector’s Gender Empowerment Platform is indispensable for creating an understanding of personal and business needs, develop an environment of trust and then create value.

One of the civil society partners argued that, often in agricultural supply chains, there is a lack of transparency related to addressing gender issues. Several private partners during the event emphasized that they are working on gender equality on an individual company basis. Sector-wide initiatives and organizations can help in collecting gender data and evaluating experiences and changes of individual companies on a sector-level. Also, collaboration with expert CSO knowledge partners, on both the company and sector level, can help to build capacity on gender equality in the workplace or to develop sector-wide policies and sustainability standards.

A deep-dive into the program experiences

Through two parallel break-out sessions led by UN Women, the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC) and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), participants discussed experiences from both sectors in smaller groups. Both break-out sessions had a different purpose. The break-out session of UN Women and GVRC focused on knowledge enhancement of the participants on how GBV can be addressed through a multi-sectoral approach, which enabled participants to discuss and learn about different approaches to address GBV and sexual harassment in the workplace. The session hosted by BSR focused on the importance of sharing day-to-day experiences on gender. Participants described a normal working day for a typical female farm worker, allowing different companies and CSO participants to share their personal experience related to such working days and in relation to gender, not only highlighting successes, but also challenges for workers and missed opportunities for both workers and businesses. BSR together with EHPEA also presented real cases and best practices on gender for the participants to debate and share their points of view. The sharing of eye-opening understandings sparked an interactive discussion amongst all participants.

The discussions have generated enthusiasm among all and the desirability of having even more time to properly address the topic; for a more successful event, more interactive session and discussions are needed.

Reflections by Winfridah Nyakwarah (Unilever)

Towards gender equality and empowerment in global supply chains

IDH aims to integrate gender into business practices throughout the supply chains we work in, as we believe that women and men are key drivers for growth and sustainability. At the same time, women often have fewer opportunities than men and hence are more vulnerable to exploitation. In order to address gender equality in supply chains, IDH has set up specific projects and programs together with the Kenyan tea partners, as well as with the flowers partners in Ethiopia, Kenya and Colombia.

In the tea program, IDH aims to significantly reduce the occurrence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the Kenyan tea industry by 2020, through addressing issues of awareness, female leadership and financial literacy. To reach this aim, IDH convenes the Gender Empowerment Platform: a sector-wide platform in which tea companies and civil society players work together and share learnings and experiences on these topics.

In the flowers program, IDH works together closely with the Floriculture Sustainability Initiative (FSI) on two levels: in implementing a project on women’s empowerment together with the Ethiopian Horticulture Producers Exporters Association EPHEA and BSR in Ethiopia; in supporting the FSI Working Group on Gender (WGG), comprised of BSR HERproject, HIVOS and Partner Africa, to inspire and help FSI private members to include gender-equality policies in their business strategies, as well as to review the criteria adopted by mainstream social compliance standards formulating a proposal for ‘gender sensitive’ improvements.

For IDH, this workshop proved to be crucial to gain more insights in the opportunities and challenges around addressing gender issues in different supply chains, identify possible collaborations and fully realize the importance of recording data about the gender interventions to be able to evaluate the success of the strategies put in place and the change achieved by the industries. The insights gained during the event are contributing to the further development of IDH interventions and of the IDH Gender Equality and Empowerment Impact theme.

Thanks to the active contribution of all participants, IDH has noticed that there is a role for future IDH cross-learning events and is exploring opportunities together with its partners to make this happen.


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Find out more about how IDH addresses gender equality and empowerment in supply chains:

IDH Gender Toolkit
IDH has worked together with our program teams and gender experts to design this starting point to creating change on gender equality and empowerment. The IDH Gender Toolkit consists of practical case examples from similar sectors and projects that we work in, and of our IDH Gender Guide, where we explore opportunities to integrate gender aspects in different programming steps of projects and inventions. Following these steps may positively influence your project or intervention and leverage greater impact. Our IDH Gender Toolkit aims to raise awareness, encourage, and inspire to integrate gender aspects into supply chain approaches.

IDH Common Training Manual: Addressing Gender Based Violence in the Kenyan Tea Industry
IDH has developed a common training manual on addressing gender based violence in the Kenyan tea industry. The manual has been commissioned with the objective to align training and awareness raising material around gender based violence issues for the Kenyan tea industry. It supports the effort to significantly reduce the occurrence of gender based violence in the Kenyan tea industry by 2020.

Cultivating gender equality in the flower industry
The Women’s Empowerment program in the Ethiopian floriculture sector addresses gender-related issues at a number of EHPEA member farms and implements pilot welfare programs in the workplace. After taking first steps, in the second phase of the program interventions have been strengthened to achieve a change in mindset towards lasting improvements in the lives of women and communities. IDH commissioned a study to evaluate and document the business case of investing in women empowerment in selected flowers farms participating in the IDH/EHPEA/BSR project in Ethiopia.

IDH Podcast on Gender
Listen to our podcast on how IDH is addressing gender in our work in global supply chains.