Promoting gender equality

TAML introduces Malawi tea’s first sector-wide gender policy and training, helping build a motivated workforce with better opportunities for women

In 2015, when the Tea Association of Malawi (TAML) and other key stakeholders agreed to work together to improve the living conditions of the country’s tea-industry workers, they recognised that gender equality is essential to this effort. Five years later, the association’s members have made important strides toward this goal, raising awareness among workers and managers about gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence, and taking steps to cultivate more female managers.

At the outset of this process, TAML and its partners — including IDH and World University Services of Canada (WUSC) — analysed the major obstacles to gender equality within the industry. They found that while there were many female workers on tea estates, most management positions were held by men. Sexual harassment and discrimination were seen as a challenge on all estates. There was no policy or mechanism for addressing harassment in the workplace, even though local and national laws prohibit it.

I’ve seen positive change since the introduction of the gender policy in our company. The male managers have started to change their behaviour; now they respect women better.

Susan Mkandwire, secretary of the Naming’omba Company and chairperson of its Women’s Working Committee (WWC)

A framework for change

Following this initial analysis, the TAML Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy was developed in 2015, and adopted by member companies and launched at the end of 2017.  The policy outlines practical guidelines on how to address and prevent gender inequality, sexual harassment and discrimination within all member estates. IDH and WUSC provided financial support, technical assistance, and advisory services on the implementation of the policy. In addition, IDH supported the establishment of a Gender Coordinator position within TAML’s Secretariat. WUSC provided volunteers who have played an advisory role and supported the implementation of the policy.

I’m HR officer and I look after 4200 people. Before the Malawi Tea 2020 there were no gender reporting structures. We now have the knowledge of the complaint process with the training received by Women Welfare and Gender Committees. These structures make gender issues to be more openly discussed by everyone. If you are hardworking you deserve to be promoted whether you are a man or a woman.

Robert Mwentumba, Naming’omba HR Officer, Gender Commitee member

The Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy was also translated into Chichewa, the local language, to ensure that it is accessible to all workers.

Education and empowerment

Following the adoption of the gender policy, each estate established Gender Harassment Discrimination Committees (GHDCs) and Women’s Welfare Committees (WWCs).

Then in 2018, with support from IDH and WUSC, TAML delivered sexual harassment and women’s leadership training sessions to a total of 300 participants (women managers, supervisors, and some members of the WWCs and GHDCs).

Gender-based violence occurs at work, but also at home. These trainings are empowering us to eliminate violence from our communities. We want to spread the knowledge to everyone in our communities.

Susan Ndalira, a creche teacher and GHDC chairperson on the broader impact of the trainings

The leadership trainings were followed in early 2019 by pre-training needs assessment sessions with WWC and GHDC members, capitao, and supervisors on all tea estates, which helped guide the development of appropriate materials for trainings in gender equality, sexual harassment, discrimination, and policy implementation. These training sessions were held between summer 2019 and spring 2020.The trainings have been transformative for both female and male employees.

I’m getting my salary this Friday, and I will be sharing with my wife information about my earnings for the first time. I want to be a positive example for others. I have been hearing about gender from the radio, but the training has made me take a step further.

Alexious Ellatorn, security worker and GHDC member

The way forward

The gender training and the formation of gender-related committees have helped to ensure that all workers within the tea industry are aware of gender and sexual harassment and know where to report such cases. Although the number of cases reported remains low, efforts to increase reporting are being put in place — for example, boxes where victims can leave anonymous written complaints. With support from IDH, TAML is also exploring the use of toll-free numbers to report sexual harassment.

In addition, managers and directors have recognized the need to increase the number of female managers within the industry. They are currently exploring ways to attract and recruit female candidates for managerial roles.

This year, TAML has shown its commitment to gender mainstreaming by providing the first two months’ salary for the Gender Coordinator and allowing estate managers to participate in the gender training despite the obstacles posed by COVID-19.

Changing an organisation’s culture generally takes a lot of time and patience. By establishing a gender policy and holding trainings, the tea industry has taken important steps toward gender equality. Financial and technical support is still needed to build on the foundation which the Malawi Tea 2020 has established, and to make full gender equality in the tea sector a reality.

TAML members have taken full ownership of the gender and sexual harassment policy. We have implemented activities in the estates to ensure reporting and monitoring of harassment cases. Going forward we have emphasized on policy assessment, reporting, monitoring and evaluation to ensure consistency with national and international standards as well best practices.

TAML

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