Opportunities for women

Promoting safety for women

Violence and discrimination can blight women's lives and create barriers that prevent them playing a full part in their work and in transforming their families and communities. We are taking steps to improve women’s rights and safety in the communities in which we operate.

Woman farming

Creating a stable & safe work environment

We are committed to respecting and promoting women’s rights, which include the right to safety of women and girls, with a focus on our own operations and extended supply chain.

As many as seven out of ten women worldwide are subject to some form of violence at some point in their lives1. When women are free from violence and discrimination, they can be productive at work, transform their families and communities, and fuel their economies.


Our approach

Within our workplaces and supply chains, we aim to implement policies and processes that women trust, with an emphasis on addressing prevailing social and cultural norms and behavioural factors that can leave women at risk.

To achieve this, we work closely with partners, including suppliers, as well as using the following tools and mechanisms:

  • Policies and codes of conduct
  • Code compliance and performance management systems
  • Grievance mechanisms
  • Awareness-raising and training.

Global partnership to promote women's safety

In December 2016, we announced a partnership with UN Women to develop a human rights-based Intervention Programme to inform the development of a Global Framework on Women’s Safety across our tea supply chain.

The programme will be implemented from 2017 to 2019, and aims to ensure that women and girls are socially, economically and politically empowered. Working with partners from a range of sectors, including government authorities, UN Women and other UN agencies, women’s organisations, suppliers and others, the programme aims to apply the Global Framework to Unilever’s supply chain and extend into the wider tea industry and other commodities over time.

The Global Framework will draw on the knowledge, tools and good practices of all partners, including our ongoing Women’s Safety Programme in Kenya (see below).

The partnership builds on our work with the HeForShe movement as a Corporate IMPACT 10x10x10 Champion. We were also a founder member of the UN Global Compact in 2000, and endorsed the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in 2011 as well as the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2013.

Our Safety of Women & Girls Programme

Up to 50,000 people live in the company villages on our tea estate in Kericho, Kenya, where we employ more than 12,000 permanent workers and 4,000 seasonal workers. In 2013, we commissioned an extensive independent review following allegations of sexual harassment at Kericho in 2010 and 2013.

The review resulted in a number of practical recommendations that have now been implemented at Kericho, including expanding and strengthening our management team, and increasing the proportion of female team leaders. We have instituted policies on sexual harassment, child protection, and violence prevention and management, all developed with the participation of local employees and community representatives. We have conducted different types of training for management, employees, village elders, and specialised groups such as medical personnel. We have also improved our grievance reporting process with a dedicated, confidential, toll-free and local language hotline. Once a month, our Friday Safety Talks focus on sexual harassment and related topics.

This challenging process has taught us a number of important lessons which we believe can help other companies and communities address similar issues, which can be systemic and require a partnership approach.

In Kenya, for example, we are working with the Ethical Tea Partnership, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and the Kenya Tea Development Agency, the largest tea producer in Kenya with 66 factories and more than half a million smallholder farmers.

Gender Violence Recovery Centre

In 2015, we partnered with IBM to provide consulting services and capacity building for the Gender Violence Recovery Centre (GVRC), a charitable trust for the Nairobi Women’s Hospital group providing support to victims of gender-based violence in Kenya.

GVRC handles 29,000 records of gender-based violence and benefited from both IBM’s and Unilever’s areas of expertise. IBM built the charity’s capacity in data analytics, enabling GVRC to improve its data capture and web-based case management processes. This was a contribution via the IBM Corporate Services Corps (CSC).

For more information on our work on safety in Kericho, see Kericho tea estates or our 2015 Human Rights Report (PDF | 5MB).

Zero tolerance of discrimination

Zero tolerance of any form of discrimination, including sexual harassment, is embedded in the policies that govern our operations and value chains. These include our Code of Business Principles; our Respect, Dignity and Fair Treatment Code Policy; and our Responsible Sourcing Policy.

We continue to revise and evolve our codes in order to address specific forms of harassment, including locally issued policies covering sexual harassment, child protection and violence prevention. Our zero tolerance of discrimination is described further in Fairness in the Workplace.

1 Source: http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/situation.shtml

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