By Bennet Simbeye. This article was first published on Times of Zambia.
Over the years, floriculture and horticulture have continued to flourish in the agricultural sector, creating the much needed jobs for Zambians. In fact, more women are said to be employed in these two fields, than the men. According to a scoping study by the Women@Work Campaign under Hivos, it was established that because of the larger number of women hired, compared to men, it was contributing to poverty reduction among many communities.
Despite women being the majority of the workforce, about 70 percent, and providing the needed manual labor for the same pay as men, there are still concerns that these women still hold lower paying positions. Women@Work Country Engagement Officer and Project Manager Ketty Simasiku also noted that the women in this case have fewer privileges than their male counterparts holding key leadership positions on the same farms.
“Despite women being the majority workforce in the floriculture industry, they hold lower jobs, which are lower paying, and in most instances temporal form of employment,” she said. Ms Simasiku observes that because of the low representation for women in key positions, it has led to women enduring poor working conditions.
It is no wonder Hivos, through the Women@Work Campaign, intends to work with the Zambian government and identified stakeholders in enhancing women’s capacities to participate in leadership positions and to influence policy that betters women’s working conditions in line with the minimum and living wage requirements.
Working with other partners such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and Women for Change, the organizations have engaged in various activities to raise awareness and develop solutions to the continued disparity in the sector.
Ms Simasiku said advocacy programs have been undertaken, with the most significant ones being the workshops and participation in the May 1 Labor Day commemoration. More than 200 farm workers participated in the Labor Day march past in Lusaka under the umbrella of Hivos and its partners. “220 farm workers marched during Labor Day celebrations in Lusaka from different farms dealing in horticulture for exports,” she said.
The commemoration was an opportunity not only to lobby government and employers to consider improving conditions for farm workers, but also an opportunity for Hivos and its partners to discuss pertinent topics around the Zambia Employment and Labor Act.
“So as for the workers to have knowledge of what is there for them in terms of employment and labor laws, this shall enable them hold their employers accountable to consider promoting staff well-being in line with provisions of the law.
Hivos also held a workshop for farm managers, shop stewards and participants drawn from target farms on corporate social responsibility, workplace health policy and social certification.
Ms Simasiku hopes that farm owners and other stakeholders will continue to embrace the Women@Work Campaign for its benefits to their business, as well as the capacity grown in women to lobby for improved working conditions that respect gender rights.