The inaugural Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) conference for KTDA female Directors took place on 11 and 12th July 2016. Mr. Tiampati, the chief Executive Officer of KTDA, officially opened the conference, which reflected how significant the event was.
The conference was a culmination of a lot of effort over the last 4 years by ETP, KTDA, and IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative to improve social conditions at KTDA’s 66 processing factories. As well as training managers, supervisors, and workers on gender awareness, advocacy, and a host of other topics, we also developed a Social Issues Training manual.
Over the course of the two days an array of pertinent topics and issues were addressed including: gender parity and concerns; leadership and integrity; workplace communication and conflict management; human rights and sexual harassment; and what constitutes a balanced lifestyle. The facilitators for the conference were strategically identified: we had female mentors from within the KTDA structure who shared their experiences and insights as well as a male board member who shared great insights and expectations of female directors from a male perspective. Significantly, the ETP trainers were very instrumental in unpacking the key concepts across various areas, contending debates and narratives, and providing guidance on the work plans as a basis for further actions and follow up.
For me the conference was significant in a number ways. Firstly, the conference was the first time in the history of KTDA that all female directors were under one roof sharing both challenges and opportunities that have been confronting them for the last three years since taking up positions on the factory boards.
Secondly, and probably even more revealing, is that four years ago there were only two women on the KTDA factory boards. Today, 54 factories have female board members with two in the position of chairperson! This means that women are now in positions to ensure that gender-related issues are taken seriously – can you imagine the positive impact this must have for all female employees at KTDA?
Thirdly, while the Kenyan constitution 2010 does provide that neither gender should be more than 2/3 in any statutory government/public owned corporation or company in practice many organisations and sectors are falling short. However, at KTDA they have actively delivered against this provision. Pleasingly, 9 of the female directors at the conference gained their seats through the normal election channels, which just goes to show how the programme has led to a widespread mindset change across KTDA.
The day ended with the KTDA Chairman meeting with female directors at an evening reception where they had the opportunity to share what they had learned and present their expectations of KTDA in the tea sector. There was unanimity that the gains already made needed to be consolidated as we position the female directors to play a transformative role not only in the tea sector but also out in their wider communities.
On a personal level the conference was a dream come true and very emotional experience. Ultimately it was the shattering of a long held myth that leadership, especially directorship in the tea sector, is for men. Seeing all these female directors under one roof sharing their challenges and looking at opportunities that those challenges pose, well… it definitely re-energised my resolve to look at other possible projects to empower women. This project was truly a game changer!