aretha franklin honoured at grammys - Aretha Franklin honoured at Grammys

Aretha Franklin received a special musical tribute from Andra Day, Yolanda Adams and Fantasia Barrino at the Grammy Awards on Sunday (10.02.19). The Queen of Soul passed away aged 76 last August and her...

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if consumers knew some of their flowers are produced by sex slaves sales would collapse - 'If consumers knew some of their flowers are produced by sex slaves, sales would collapse'

After 10 years, one secretly pregnant woman exposes the thornier underbelly of Kenya's flower industry

Isn’t it nice to work in an industry whose products bring happiness to others? Mary Ogada cannot say yes. At 33 and now secretly pregnant with her fourth child, she already knows she is on her way out. 

She hides her pregnancy in a crumpled dress that she covers with the green coat provided at the flower farm in Naivasha. 

Mary hopes she will feign sickness on her due date and resume work after two weeks, because it is low season anyway. 

The law says she should get three-month fully paid maternity leave, which rarely happens at her flower farm. 

“If I take as much as a month of unpaid maternity, I will be lucky to return,” she says. 

She is no longer the supple school dropout who joined the farm some 10 years ago. The sagging skin, wrinkles on her face and the paling pigmentation are testament to a grueling decade. 

“If I go away, no one would admire me to allow me back,” she says. “I know that’s quite a bold statement to make, but hear me out.”

The Kenyan flower industry, in one way, operates like the modelling industry. Modeling favors young women for their appearance and often treats them like sexualized objects to sell products. 

Mary says many flower farms also favour young women under 27 years, not because they have special skills or can sell flowers, but because some male managers prefer them for sex. 

“Young girls have no responsibilities so they are easy to manipulate and take advantage of. But we have to compete with them when seeking casual jobs, and often it is men who decide,” she explains. 

With 10 years of experience, Mary and other long-serving casuals would be the grand dames of the flower farms. But they are not. 

Mary, who is unmarried, says this is the little dirty secret hidden at most farms. She claims many farms profit from women’s insecurities because most are afraid of losing their jobs, and cannot speak out.

The industry itself is particularly sensitive to criticism because flowers are mostly just about emotions, about making others happy.

So if the consumers realise some of their flowers are grown by ‘sex slaves’, sales might well begin to collapse. 

The problem is widespread.

According to the Kenya Flower Council, the floriculture sector currently employs more than 90,000 people directly and 70 per cent of them are women.  

At least 30,000 of these workers are based in Naivasha, while the rest are sprawled all over the country as far as Nanyuki, Thika, Nairobi and Nakuru among other places. 

Ferdinand Juma, the head of the Naivasha branch of the Kenya Plantations and Agriculture Workers Union, says they receive complaints of sexual harassment from women workers almost daily. 

“Sexual harassment has been an issue reported in the sector for many years. Due to sustained campaigns some flower farms are now taking action on managers found guilty of this vice,” he says.

Workers from a Naivasha-based flower farm carry twigs and placards after going on strike over poor working conditions recently/ Photo Correspondent


The Institute of Development Studies of the University of Nairobi partly blames the feminisation of flower farming for this. 

“Most of the people working in the industry are women — 60-70 per cent — this is ‘feminisation’ of the industry,” says Dr Joshua Kivuva, a researcher at the IDS. 

The figures come from a study IDS carried recently, in partnership with the Nairobi-based Partnership for African Social and Governance Research. 

Dr Kivuva says many of the women suffer under poor terms of employment because there are no employment-specific policies in horticulture. 

Mary, who lives in Karagita area of Naivasha, says most families she knows are broken, and sexually transmitted infections through rape and forced sex are rampant. 

“Young workers face sexual aggression with threats of reprisals in greenhouses supervised by men. But for me the problem is that I am old and cannot get promotion or better workstation like packaging even if I’m pregnant,” she says. 

It is difficult to hold perpetrators to account, because they are not even reported. This is especially so in farms without the Fairtrade reporting structures in place. 

In 2012, the Kenya Human Rights Commission published a groundbreaking study on the labour situation in Kenyan flower farms. 

“The study focused on working conditions around six key areas: equal pay for equal work, maternity and paternity, child support, sexual harassment, dismissals, casual labour and contracting processes,” says Joyce Gema, the principal researcher who led the study team and compiled the report, titled Wilting in Bloom. 

Sexual harassment incidents were reported in 54 per cent of the workplaces sampled.

Thika flower farms had the highest number of sexual harassment complaints due to the geographical set ups, where farms are located deep inside coffee plantations, a conducive environment for sexual predators. 

“Generally, for all companies, 67 per cent of respondents reported sanctions against sexual harassment are not adequate to deter the vice,” says the report. 

Six years later, the situation has only improved slightly, says Eunice Waweru, head of the Kiambu-based Workers’ Rights Watch. 

WRW was established in 2000 to empower workers on their rights and responsibilities in ensuring a workplace free from labour rights violations. 

“We are piloting a policy to stop sexual harassment in flower farms. We have seen great improvement in farms that have already adopted the policy,” says Waweru. 

“We also equip gender committees in flower farms to carry out investigations themselves without being intimidated,” she adds. 

Recently, Andrew Odete, regional project manager at Hivos International, a Kenyan human rights organisation, partly blamed sexual harassment on power relations. 

"Because of power relations, if it is the director or the manager accused of a (sexual) violation, the choice as to who must leave is an easy one for many farms," Odete said. 

This situation is aggravated by the low pay for women, compared to men. 

Most workers in the greenhouses work for Sh7, 500 to Sh15, 000 a month. 

Mary is paid Sh8, 000 every month, after statutory deductions. She recently took a loan at the local Sacco to pay school fees for her first daughter, who joined form one this year. The other two children, a seven-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy, attend a nearby primary school. 

“They deduct Sh1, 500 every month so now I earn Sh6, 500 every month.” 

Mary says most of her colleagues with school-going children are trapped on loans to get by and cannot leave their jobs, however underpaid they are. 

She leaves the house at 5.30am every morning to reach the farm by 7am, and returns home at 6pm. 

The industry in Kenya is increasingly dominated by Dutch flower growers, who have relocated their flower production here mainly because of “favorable” local wage costs and the many hours of sunshine. 

Flowers bring about positive emotional feelings to buyers, but this would change if they know about the uncertified farms that engage in poor labour practices.


Stephen Oburo from the Federation of Kenyan Employers, an affiliate of Kenya's Labour Ministry, recently told the BBC the employers couldn’t be blamed for the low salaries. 

"If these women can't even inform union leaders or the Ministry of Labour about their wages, they are doing a disservice to themselves and this country," he said. 

"Do they want us to put a policeman on each farm to make sure these violations don't happen? We don't have the resources to do that." 

The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers’ Union and the Agricultural Employers’ Association usually negotiate Collective Bargaining Agreements for the flower sector every two years whereby basic pay, in-kind provisions, cash allowances, working hours, leave and other benefits are specified. 

One CBA signed in 2011 says a general farm worker employed in 1997 should earn a basic wage of Sh10,252 compared to Sh7,777 for a worker hired in 2004, while a worker employed in 2014 earned Sh5,401. 

When you adjust these wages to Kenya’s runaway inflation, the picture is grim.

However, several organisations including the Fairtrade International, Hivos International and True Price have helped develop living wage guidelines, to help workers get decent pay. 

Mary says women earn much less than men, even if they do the same jobs. “In greenhouses its women who tend the flowers and even package them because they are considered gentle, but even if men did these jobs, they would earn more than we do,” she says. 

In Wilting in Bloom, 69 per cent of respondents said women and men do not to earn equally, as more men are concentrated in managerial positions and women serving in management are mainly relegated to lower level supervisory jobs that do not pay any better than the manual labourers. 

“The law prohibits the practice whereby female employees are paid less than their male counterparts performing the same work,” says the study. 

However, the study notes that actually, the main challenge for most workers is decent wages rather than equal pay. 

“There is yet to be established a formula of determining what is fair remuneration,” it says.

 The study adds: “Some organisations advocating for the use of the contentious breadbasket methodology while others look to strengthening of labour unions and negotiations through use of a wage ladder as a more appropriate method of arriving at improved wages.” 

Last year, Kenya recorded 39.1 per cent unemployment rate, according to the United Nations Development Programme. 

Latest statistics continue to reflect a shockingly high youth unemployment rate due to harsh economic environment, which gives Kenya the highest unemployment rate in East Africa. 

Until that situation changes, many women will struggle and put up with the harsh conditions in farms rather than lose jobs. 

The KHRC study says 55 per cent of households in flower farms are headed by women, who have an average four children each. 

“This is why I have to hide my pregnancy,” says Mary.

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goalkeepers report why the growing propulation may make or break kenyas economic growth - Goalkeepers report: Why the growing propulation may make or break Kenya's economic growth

Kenya’s population  is projected to reach 95 million in 2050 and 142 million by the turn of the century


A new report shows how demographic trends could stall unprecedented progress in reducing global poverty.

While one billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty over the past 20 years, rapid population growth in the poorest countries, particularly in Africa, puts future progress at risk. 

The second annual Goalkeepers Data Report, released by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says if current trends continue, the number of extremely poor people in the world could stop its two-decade decline—and could even rise. 

Despite the sobering projections, Bill and Melinda Gates express optimism that today’s growing youth populations could help drive progress. 

Kenya’s current population of nearly 50 million is projected to reach 95 million in 2050 and 142 million by the start of the 22nd century, according to projections released by United Nations last year. 

Investing in the health and education of young people in Africa could unlock productivity and innovation, leading to a “third wave” of poverty reduction, which follows the first wave in China and the second in India. 

“The conclusion is clear: To continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest-growing, poorest countries,” Bill and Melinda Gates write in the introduction. “This means investing in young people. Specifically, it means investing in their health and education.” 

Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data 2018 was co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. 

Using new data projections, the report reveals that poverty within Africa is concentrating in just a handful of countries, which are among the fastest-growing in the world. 

By 2050, more than 40 percent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria. 

In the past, large youth populations have helped drive economic growth and poverty reduction. The report makes the case for leaders to invest in the power and potential of youth to continue progress. 

Through essays by experts and journalists, the report examines promising approaches in health and education, highlighting ways that young people could help transform the continent. According to the report, investments in health and education, or “human capital,” in sub-Saharan Africa could increase GDP in the region by more than 90 percent by 2050. 

Each year, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion, and sanitation. 

IHME projections provide three potential scenarios for indicators: better and worse scenarios based upon accelerating or reducing the rate of progress, and projections based upon current trends. 

This year’s report examines family planning, with an essay by Alex Ezeh, the Executive Director of the African Population and Health Research

and a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. 

Former US President Barack Obama, Melinda and Bill Gates speak at the 2017 Goalkeepers event in New York.

The essay focuses on the importance of empowering women so they can exercise their fundamental right to choose the number of children they will have, when they will have them, and with whom. 

Ezeh notes that according to data from the United Nations, Africa’s population is projected to double in size by 2050 and could double again by 2100. If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa were empowered to have the number of children she wants, the projected population increase could be up to 30 percent smaller, from four billion to 2.8 billion. 

Most critically, this would enable more girls and women to expand their horizons, stay in school longer, have children later, earn more as adults, and invest more in their children. The chapter also explores how a novel family planning program in Kenya is providing young women with access to contraceptives. 

There is also a HIV chapter which includes modeling by Imperial College London for what Zimbabwe’s HIV epidemic might look like in 2050 and, thus, what the nation’s overall future holds. Its large number of young people have the potential to drive economic growth, but only if they remain healthy. More than half of Zimbabweans are under 25 years old and reaching the age when they are most at risk for HIV infection. 

If Zimbabwe scales up currently available prevention tools over the next five years, it could see new infections among 15- to 29-year-olds drop by a third within a decade. The introduction of new prevention tools by 2030, including a highly efficacious vaccine, could further reduce new cases to approximately 400 per year. Together, these interventions could avert up to 364,000 new cases of HIV among young people. 

The Education chapter includes an essay by Ashish Dhawan, chairman of the Central Square Foundation in India. Although more students in low- and lower-middle-income countries are enrolled in school today than ever before, many are not learning what they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the strategy for improving school outcomes is not as clear-cut as the strategy for improving school access. The chapter examines Vietnam’s success in achieving system-wide improvements. Though the country’s per capita GDP is only slightly higher than India’s, Vietnam’s 15-year-olds outperform students from wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom on international tests. 

The Agriculture chapter includes analysis by James Thurlow, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, estimating that by doubling agricultural productivity, Ghana could cut poverty in half, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and drive economic growth. An essay by a local journalist follows the journey of a tomato from a field in rural Burkina Faso to a plate in Ghana, illustrating how many jobs it creates along the way. 

Bill and Melinda Gates said it will produce the Goalkeepers Data Report every year through 2030, timing it to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. The report is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners, and leaders around the world accountable. It aims to document not just what is working, but where the world is falling short. 

Kenyan musician King Kaka is among the Goalkeepers in the 2018 event.

In conjunction with the report, Bill and Melinda Gates are once again co-hosting the Goalkeepers event in New York City during the UN General Assembly. On September 26, dynamic young leaders from government, business, technology, media, entertainment, and the nonprofit sector will discuss innovations and approaches to achieve the Global Goals. Participants include young leaders like David Sengeh, chief innovation officer for the government of Sierra Leone; Trisha Shetty, Indian lawyer, social activist, and founder of SheSays; King Kaka, Kenyan musician and activist; and Aranya Johar, Indian spoken word poet. Other speakers include Graça Machel, international advocate for women and children's rights and co-founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Richard Curtis, writer, campaigner, and Project Everyone co-founder; and Stephen Fry, actor, writer, and presenter. Performers include British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Additional speakers will be announced soon. 

Co-hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards will be presented on September 25, the evening before the Goalkeepers daytime event. In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF, the awards will celebrate outstanding youth-focused work around the world that is directly linked to the 17 Global Goals. The four award categories include the Progress Award, Changemaker Award, Campaign Award, and Global Goalkeeper Award. 

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katja iversen investing in women pays - Katja Iversen: Investing in women pays

November 28, 2018, was meant to be a big day for Kenya. For the second time, MPs would try and pass a major gender law to improve the representation of women in Parliament.

A similar attempt to raise the numbers to the constitutional 30 per cent minimum in 2015 fell flat.

But there was overwhelming goodwill on this day. The HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes and Women Deliver President Katja Iversen were in town.

By mere coincidence, the Danish delegation was actually here for the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign, a new initiative to advocate for girls, women, and gender equality.

The vote in parliament fell through. MPs could not must the required numbers to pass the bill, known as two-thirds gender bill.

Women still account for only 19 per cent of MPs in Parliament.

“It is such a shame this did not pass. But hopefully it will have a chance in future,” minister Ulla told the Star.

Observers felt the failure to pass such a progressive Bill points to a lack of appreciation of the contribution of women to the economy.

“I support women to be in leadership, but we must get women of substance and people who will add value in our society,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who had mobilised colleagues to reject the bill.

On the bright side, about 20 local civil society groups launched the Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in a colourful ceremony that Wednesday morning in Nairobi.

The campaign applies a gender lens to the sustainable development goals and promotes critical investments – political, financial, and programmatic – in girls and women.

“If we don’t know how many women are there and there contributions to the economy we can't do good policies. We don’t do policies from crystal balls but we do policies from evidence,” Katja told the Star in an exclusive interview.

The campaign recognises women do not play on a level ground with men.

Their contribution to the family and society is not valued as most of their work is considered as household work which they are "obliged” to perform.

Statistical agencies and government bodies have also significantly undervalued women's contribution to the economy, according to researchers.

“If we look at the data, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics also says it’s becoming important to put gender lens in data,” Katja said.

The Deliver for Good Campaign, initially launched at the global level during the Women Deliver Conference in 2016, has now brought on board more than 400 organisations globally to build a movement to catalyse action for girls and women.

Last month, Kenya became the first focus country for dedicated advocacy and communication efforts.

Teresa Omondi-Adeitan, Executive Director of FIDA Kenya, the lead-coordinating partner for the campaign in Kenya, said they have identified four priorities for collective action.

These are women's land rights, access to financing and economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, and women's political participation, which includes the enforcement of the two-thirds Gender law.

“While women comprise half of Kenya’s population, they own less than two per cent of the land and account for 19 per cent of the MPs and 27 per cent of the Senators. Despite the number of women involved in business, most women-owned businesses have difficulty accessing loans,” Teresa said.

HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark and Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tornaes in northern Kenya.

Across the world, the level of remuneration determines the value of any work. As such, work done without compensation is largely considered non-valuable.

Most of this uncompensated work involves domestic chores and subsistence farm work, which is largely done by women in Kenya.

Therefore, the work done by women is largely considered non-work having no or little value.

And the under-valuation of women's work is a global phenomenon. Based on several research and surveys, women produce 60 to 80 per cent of basic foodstuffs in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 76 per cent of women in Kenya are employed in agriculture and they don’t get paid for the work they do there.

Katja says today it’s difficult for women to get capital for business just because they are women and that’s not fair.

“No single country that has gender equality. Some places are getting better, but when we see Rwanda, 64 per cent of parliamentarians are women, education and health are improving, that’s a deliberate choice to prioritises women and equality,” she said.

Katja was born in Denmark 49 years ago and has, for most of her life, been fighting for women and girls to be given the same opportunities as men.

Early this month, readers of Berlingske, the oldest Danish newspaper and among the oldest in the world, named her the Dane of the Year 2018.

She says there is enough evidence that giving women equal opportunities in the economy boosts the global economy.

This evidence comes from the consulting firm, McKinsey Global Institute, whose analyses show that if women get access to the same opportunities as men, it would increase the global GDP by 25 per cent.

“If we really see, it’s a choice. We now have evidence from McKinsey showing economic benefit of having gender equal world, the ability to have the same opportunities to get to school, education, health services, no gender-based violence, better representation,” she says.

Katja says the situation is improving, but data is lagging behind. “If we get the data desegregated we will make proper policies,” she told the Star.

Katja says Deliver for Good will galvanise action globally.

“How can we treat girls and women better and how we can invest in them better, can I show my girl that women can also be leaders? Let’s give people same opportunities whether they are girls or boys,” she adds.

Katja Iversen, Women Deliver CEO, and Teresa Omondi, the executive director of FIDA, during the launch of Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign in Nairobi.

Kenya has many progressive policies for women. Currently, the government promises at least 30 per cent of its budget for women, youth, and people living with disabilities. The constitution says each gender must have a minimum 30 per cent of seats in Parliament and the Senate.

But many of these progress policies were never enforced.

“This initiative (Deliver for Good Kenya Campaign) is home-owned and home-grown but the next steps would be to expand circle of partners, and work together to elevate the issue and achieve good,” Katja says.

“There are four key areas, and they will seek to expand opportunities available for women. For instance, women own only 1.6 per cent only of land. If you as a woman want to raise capital for business and you have no land for capital, it’s difficult.”


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