“Educating a woman is educating the society” is a saying that shows why women’s roles in development are essential. Because of its focus on women, among the many projects that the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association (EHPEA) implements, ‘empowering the source’ is particularly encouraging regarding gender issues. 

The need for gender training

More than 85% of the workforce in the horticulture sector are women. Generally, they are between 18-30 years old and have received only an elementary-level education. Their young age and lack of education makes these women vulnerable at a number of levels.

In order to address their challenges, the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer Exporters Association started the ‘empowering the source’ project in 2015, in partnership with the BSR-Her Project, sponsored by the Floriculture Sustainable Initiative and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). It was designed to reach out to all women and men working in EHPEA member farms in Holeta, Sebeta, Ziway, Koka, Debrezeit, Legedadi, Chancho, Wolkite, Woliso and Bahir Dar. In 2016, the first phase of the project covered 11,316 workers on 22 farms, and the second phase in 2017 reached 18,363 workers on 14 farms.

Empowering the source includes two influential work streams, ‘women’ and ‘workplace’. In the ‘women’ work stream, the project engages and encourages female employees to increase their knowledge, and improve their behaviour concerning health and gender. The ‘workplace’ work stream aims to improve the practices, policies and procedures on farms by supporting gender sensitive management, prevention of harassment and gender-based violence, and improving worker welfare including access to healthcare products and services.

Leading to good results

Farms in Ziway including Sher Ethiopia, AQ Rose, Herburg Rose & Braam Rose are the best performing farms in areas where the project has been implemented. Before the training almost all these farms did not have specific policies concerning sexual harassment or gender equality, nor any unit that represented gender issues. Management knew little about gender equality and its benefits and they lacked the necessary commitment to implement the national law regarding gender equality.

EHPEA’s Gender Expert trainers used a unique training approach called the ‘peer health education model’, designed to be interactive, involving workers and management.

Thanks to BSR-Her Project and the hard working, committed EHPEA Gender section, these farms have now developed a working policy and procedures in which they integrated gender-sensitive management. They have established a strong gender committee that can lobby for the workers and take a place in the company’s organizational structure. The involvement of local district authorities in the training process, as well as considering international standards such as Fairtrade, Global Gap, etc., and the national constitution, have also had a great impact on the project’s success.

As the sector is profit-oriented, this was not always a smooth road for the EHPEA team. Despite the availability of a gender-based violence policy framework, a major challenge is the lack of adequate law enforcement. In addition, convincing the farms to adopt gender-sensitive management policies and procedures as per the training was not always straightforward.

But hard work pays off. Improved knowledge and behavior and the establishment and actions of farm gender committees, has showed that the project had made a positive impact. And these changes have led to increased productivity, better farm management and higher satisfaction among workers.

Written by Yemisrach Berhanu (November 2017)
A result of Experience Capitalization training organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ethiopia, in collaboration with CTA and Guava Stories.
Picture: EHPEA