Malawian tea workers awarded $3m for gender-based violence
March 1, 2021
CAMELLIA Group, which owns tea estates in Malawi, has agreed to pay compensation of $3 million to 36 of its female employees who made claims of gender-based violence against the company.
Represented by UK law firm Leigh Day, the women alleged that they had experienced some cases of rape and sexual harassment on the tea estates in the Mulanje and Thyolo districts of Malawi while employed by Eastern Produce Malawi Ltd (EPM), an indirect subsidiary of Camellia.
The decision was welcomed by Malawi’s Gender Minister, Patricia Kaliati, who said: “Though government regards tea companies as partners in development, it condemns the raping and abusing of women, or any other malpractices, in tea estates.”
She said that the government had been concerned to hear of the cases of abuse.
The women’s claims were issued in the High Court in the UK in October 2019, and last month Camellia agreed to settle the matter.
Apart from the compensation, the settlement includes the establishment of a number of measures designed to improve the safety and security of EPM’s female employees and improve conditions for women in the wider community.
These measures include a Women’s Empowerment Initiative, which will fund projects to improve the skills, employment opportunities, and educational attainment of women and girls in and around EPM’s operations, providing benefits both to the claimants and the wider community.
Consultations are to be held with stakeholders, including women working and living in and around EPM, to ensure these projects have maximum impact.
A consultant has been engaged by EPM to monitor, guide and oversee, independently, EPM’s Women’s Empowerment Initiative.
Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day, said the “ground-breaking settlement…provides not only compensation for my clients, but also significant changes to the working practices at EPM to improve the safety and prospects of its women employees”.
She added: “The wide range of measures to be implemented by EPM under its Women’s Empowerment Initiative should also bring meaningful improvements and opportunities to women and children in the communities in which EPM operates for years to come.”
EPM has agreed to improve the safety and working conditions of female employees on its estates.
These include the installation of cameras at key locations, the provision of personal attack alarms, and a new role of “Women’s Safeguarding Officer”.
In addition, EPM will provide an enhanced training programme for women, to encourage them to progress into supervisory and management positions.
EPM has also established an independently monitored Operational-level Grievance Mechanism to ensure that any individual who wants to raise a grievance in relation to gender-based violence and/or sexual harassment at its operations is able to get prompt remedy.
The Operational-level Grievance Mechanism will be overseen by international experts.