On tea estates in Malawi, dozens of women have reported experiences of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, including, in some cases, rape. As a result of the trade union movement’s work as well as recent litigation in the UK, these horrific stories are now being heard around the world.
Given IUF affiliates’ longstanding commitment to ending gender-based violence and harassment, the National IUF Women’s Project Coordination Committee (NPCC), composed of the 5 Malawian IUF affiliates, recently published a joint statement in the national Malawian newspaper The Nation as part of the fight-back:
- Any kind of gender based violence is no longer tolerated and victims will not be silenced
- Male union members must respect women workers
- Employers have the duty of care to make sure the workplace is safe for all
- The Malawian government should ratify ILO Convention 190 as it provides a comprehensive framework to end violence and harassment in the world of work
To raise awareness on tea plantations and to promote the confidential reporting of cases, IUF plantation workers affiliate PAWUM and the NPCC have recently launched an educational bilingual leaflet entitled “Workers in Malawi say NO to sexual harassment” with union representatives’ contact information.
As Zione Pakulantanda, the IUF National Women’s Project Coordinator, said: “The Malawian tea industry is one of the country’s biggest employers. Women make up about 30% of Malawi’s tea industry but few of them are in senior roles. Most of them are employed under seasonal contracts and are asked sexual favours in exchange for renewing their work. The IUF affiliates call employers to respect the unions’ rights and negotiate with them to eliminate gender based violence and harassment at work and addressing its root causes as precarious work. This also applies to all IUF sectors.“