Article was originally published on 21/05/2021 on unilever.com
Were passionate about taking care of our people and communities. Our tea estates lead the way when it comes to safeguarding workers’ rights.
Dignity for those working and living in our communities depends on people having access to good homes and good social amenities. Our village improvement programme provides safe, well-maintained housing. There are more than 12,000 homes in this scheme, helping people in 112 separate villages.
We’ve made sure all these villages have essential amenities. We’ve provided flushing toilets, solar-powered lighting, and security equipment. We’ve also built 50 village social halls, and – because thunder storms are prevalent in the region – fitted important buildings and infrastructure with lightning arrestors to mitigate lightning threats. A lightning detection system has also been installed. If a serious lightning risk is suspected, it’ll send out an alert to all the mobile phones in the community, letting people know they should head to the nearest shelter.
Welfare in general
We follow international human and labour rights standards. Our colleagues on the estates democratically elect their own employee committees, which have a say in the way any issues at work or in the villages are handled. There are village elders’ committees, workers’ welfare committees – even a ‘dignity enhancement committee’ that’s devoted to raising standards.
Our Welfare department also runs a Safety for Women, Boys and Girls programme, designed to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities. It’s goal is to make life safer for all employees and their families. And we’ve trained more than 1,000 employee representatives to be human rights ambassadors
Preventing sexual and gender-based violence
At ekaterra, we have Sexual and Gender-Based Violence policies, and we’ve also built partnerships with NGOs, local police, and government agencies to fully tackle issues of sexual and gender-based violence, which have been a problem in some communities. To help those affected, we employ full-time counsellors and a specialist clinical officer. We’ve also trained over 200 colleagues to work as peer counsellors, providing further support.
A key aspect of improving safety for our women and girls is to empower them financially by helping them become more involved in economic activity, which has traditionally been a mostly male domain. We've worked with expert organizations such as UNICEF, UN WOMEN, WE, Digital Opportunities Trust, IDH (a sustainable trade initiative) and the Government of Kenya to drive these programmes in both our business and the local community. We’ve trained over 900 young people on how to improve their employability, and given coaching on running a start-up. At least 1,500 men and women have received in-depth financial management and life skills training, and over 600 have learned new ICT skills. Among those we’ve helped are over 1,000 female smallholder farmers.
Our Adopt a school initiative has helped over 9,000 students at 23 village schools we’re supporting. We provide mentoring on academic subjects, life skills and safety.
Workers with disabilities
We’re a fully inclusive business, and we cherish diversity. We have a plan in place to make sure all our estates will be disability-friendly. And we’re working with smallholder farmers to improve safety and access in their spaces.
We take our colleagues mental health needs seriously, too. Through our employee assistance programme, people are supported with counselling. We’ve trained a group of 300 Wellbeing Champions to help any co-workers who might be struggling, or who just need someone to talk to. And we provide immediate help to anyone in urgent need, thanks to a full-time Welfare Manager and three Welfare Assistants based on our estates.
Improved nutrition for families
To diversify nutrition and improve workers’ food security, we’ve given all our employees their own land allotments to create kitchen gardens. We’ve also implemented the Kenya Workplace Support Initiative – a pilot project with UNICEF aimed at raising welfare standards of new and expectant mothers, supporting women when it comes to breastfeeding, and improving children’s diets overall. As part of this project, six daycare centres have been launched for new mothers.