Improving safety and opportunities for women in Kenyan tea communities

In Kenya, a new, more progressive and robust constitution was introduced in 2010 which took significant steps towards ensuring greater equality for women and children.

The context

In Kenya, a new, more progressive and robust constitution was introduced in 2010 which took significant steps towards ensuring greater equality for women and children. Although a positive step, this alone is not enough to end gender imbalances. Women and girls’ futures continue to be limited by long-entrenched gender inequality.

Across the world, women continue to have to deal with discrimination and gender-based violence. Kenya is no exception, with UN Women estimating that gender-based violence impacts nearly 40% of Kenyan women. Women continue to bear the burden of unpaid domestic tasks, which can limit the long-term opportunities for women and girls.

In the workplace, women continue to occupy lower-paid positions with limited opportunities to progress, which can increase their vulnerability to harassment and exploitation.

Our aims

We work collaboratively with the Kenyan tea industry to improve safety, opportunities and outcomes for women in ways that will lead to long-term change

We have partnered with national farmer organisation, the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) for many years to address gender inequality. We also work with the wider industry and IDH – Sustainable Trade Initiative. We are an active member of the Gender Empowerment Platform, a forum that brings together the Kenyan tea industry to improve the lives of women.

Our impact

Our work has led to a range of improvements for women in the Kenyan tea industry and communities; changing perceptions, advancing systems for reporting and redressal and increasing women’s safety, representation and opportunities for progression.

We ran a practical gender and social issues training programmes from 2010 to 2015, including with the 68 factories owned by Kenyan small-scale farmers who are part of KTDA. We’ve reached over 1,000 of KTDA’s 9,000 staff and over 850 small-scale farmers.

Factory worker Ann, who took part in ETP’s training says:

“I hail the training for the impact it has created.

It has given me a clear and better understanding.

I have learnt a lot and I pledge to be a pilot in gender advocacy”.

Through our training we support women to reach their potential. The introduction of new recruitment policies mean that job roles are now open to both male and female candidates. Women are now taking on roles traditionally reserved for men, such as driving trucks. Female representation on each factory’s Board is now compulsory.

Our work empowers women financially. A new system has been introduced to allow women to register to collect payments for the tea they sell themselves, rather than having to go through their husbands.

We have helped set up gender committees at all KTDA’s factories. This is ground-breaking: workers from across the factory are given a seat at the table with management. The committees give workers a voice and a vehicle to address gender issues.

Factory worker Felix, who took part in ETP’s training says:

“I feel that it is time to create awareness and advocate for women to take up senior jobs. I believe that our gender committee can achieve this goal.

The training has also helped a lot as a family man. I have learned how to relate better with my family”.

As members of the Gender Empowerment Platform, we work closely with Kenyan tea companies and IDH – Sustainable Trade Initiative to drive forward change. We share our experience, expertise and resources to develop common tools to support the tea industry to recognise issues around gender-based violence and sexual harassment. Together, we develop appropriate and effective responses to these issues.

We continue to work closely with our partners in Kenya to drive real change for women, and have expanded our work to private factories in Kenya as well as to Malawi and Rwanda. 

Find out more

Read more about the far-reaching work we do to empower women in tea communities around the world.

Learn about the initiatives we run in Kenya, and the difference we’re making to farmers and the broader tea community’s lives.


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