Accepted paper:

The unfulfilled promise of certification: women's empowerment and experiences of work in certified tea plantations in Kenya


Muhaimina Said-Allsopp

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the effect of certification on experiences of women workers within Kenyan Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified tea plantations. Grounded within empirical data, it proposes recommendations for targeting interventions via standards through an empowerment lens.

Paper long abstract:

This paper seeks to understand how certification schemes translate into working experiences by comparing experiences of women employed in a Fairtrade to a Rainforest Alliance certified tea plantation. It further links the workplace and household levels to investigate how women's paid employment has impacted on household dynamics and structures and whether standards can help empower women workers. This paper draws from in-depth interviews with 238 women workers employed by a 'best practice' firm within the Kenyan tea industry. Given the prominence of standards in recent campaigns and literature on export crops, one would expect them to have stimulated changes in the lives of workers. Yet, recent studies have found that, while standards have been successful in facilitating outcomes (e.g. by tackling health and safety issues), they have had limited impact in tackling process rights. Outcome standards offer opportunities for compliance without having to upset the status quo, thereby challenging neither embedded labour relations nor social norms. Process rights however, involve workers and workers' organisations getting a seat at the table when negotiating for rights, a significantly different process from current labour relations and which has the potential to challenge the social norms that underlie the production process. Outcome standards offer limited opportunities for incremental changes while process rights offer opportunities for transformative change and empowerment. By drawing from women's accounts of their experiences and their conceptualisation of empowerment, this paper concludes with recommendations for targeting value chain interventions via certification schemes in order to enhance outcome standards and process rights.

panel P050
Agricultural export production, wage employment and certification schemes