07/12/2016 Globalization, Transnationalism & Development Colloquium: Decent work for women in global horticulture value chains: the case of the flower industry in East Africa

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Date(s) - 07/12/16
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

GG76, Room 0.07, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University


Decent work for women in global horticulture value chains: the case of the flower industry in East Africa

By Caroline Wildeman


In global horticulture value chains, women mainly perform the unskilled, lowest paid and most flexible jobs. Although trade generally brings economic gains, these women hardly ever benefit. Women working in the horticulture sector in East Africa, for example, face exploitation and are vulnerable to intimidation and sexual harassment. The aim of the Woman@Work campaign is to achieve decent work for women in this sector. Deeply rooted inequalities in the social, political and economic sphere keep women in disadvantaged positions and cause women’s work to be considered of less economic value. Women workers targeted by the program live in male-dominated cultures are not accustomed to claiming their rights, and lack knowledge about labor rights. Over the past decades, consumption patterns in Western countries have changed: consumers expect fresh produce all year round and do not take into account the seasonality of products. To supply this lucrative demand, European retailers source horticultural products – fruits, flowers, vegetables – from around the world. Although Millions of women in developing countries drive these global value chains, very few consumers are aware of this, and of the fact that working conditions can be improved at a fraction of the retail prize. Internationally, state and non-state actors promote fair and sustainable value chains. The Netherlands plays an important role in the horticulture sector: it holds 50% share of world trade in flowers.  This key position offers Hivos and its partners a unique opportunity to engage and influence governments, businesses and certification bodies to ensure better working conditions for women. Hivos experienced that businesses in the flower industry are sensitive to consumers’ demand for fair products. The campaign aim is to catalyze change by linking up stakeholders, while acting as a constructive partner as well as a watchdog.

Caroline Wildeman is the Coordinator of the Global Women@Work campaign at Hivos people unlimited, a campaign that promotes the Decent Work Agenda for women in global production chains, such as the flower industry, the garment sector and coffee production. She has worked as a coordinator and advocacy public support at Hivos since 2010. She previously worked as a civil society advisor at SNV for three years (2003-2006), and as an advocacy officer and a senior advisor in Research and Development at Oxfam Novib for ten years (1993-2000).  She has 20 years of experience in development cooperation relating to civil society participation and strengthening capacities in Poverty Reduction Strategy Program processes of the World Bank; local and national implementation of the MDGs through monitoring and budget tracking; national and international lobby and networking activities around major UN conferences on social development, education and women and development. She has a Masters in International Relations and Development Economics from the University of Amsterdam.