Assessing Safety and Security of Women and Girls in Public Spaces in UNILEVER tea Catchment area, Nyaruguru District, August 2021by AJPRODHO JIJUKIRWA
This report provides findings of the safety audit conducted in Mata, Kibeho and Munini sectors of Nyaruguru district. It was undertaken in line with the Safe Rural Public Spaces for Women and Girls project being implemented by AJPRODHO in partnership with UN Women Rwanda and ADEPE. The safety audit responds to the need to collect data and design workable interventions in tackling the concerns around sexual harassment and violence against women and girls. The main objective of the safety audit was to provide data on women’s and girls’ safety and security in UNILEVER tea Catchment area and public spaces that will be used to inform government policies and approach in selected project sites.
The safety audit was primarily qualitative in nature. It was conducted in accordance with the steps adapted from the Making Cities and Urban Spaces Safe for Women and Girls Safety Audit Participatory Toolkit developed by ActionAid International (2013). Other reference materials included UN Women and UNHABITAT and some previous safety audits in cities around the World including the City of Kigali.
UN Habitat, WICI & SIDA (2008) recommend that women’s and girls’ safety audit should involve key decision makers, local government authorities, local womenrepresentatives and girls as well as key duty bearers. In line with these guidelines, the safety audit involved all these categories of people however, male participants outnumbered females because duty bearers and key decision makers at district and sectors where the safety audit was conducted were predominantly males. Rapid situational analysis (RSA) involved 30 participants (20 male and 10 female) while Key informants Interviews (KII) comprised 15 participants (10 male and 5 female). The Focus Group Discussions (FGD) participants were 52 (24 UNILEVER tea plantation workers-12 female and 12 male, 16 out grower’s plantation workers representatives – 8 male and 8 female, and 12 girls sampled in schools from Mata and Munini sectors). The Safety Audit Walk included 9 participants (7 male and 2 female).
Different qualitative methods of data collection such as Key Informant Interviews, Focused Group Discussions, safety audit walk, and documentary review were used for information triangulation. All the information collected was analyzed using thematic analysis techniques. Informed consent, privacy, anonymity, and confidentiality were ensured during the safety audit. Participants were informed about the purpose of the audit to freely decide in a conscious, deliberate way whether to participate or not. The audit team members were also mindful of the human participant principles of respect for people. The participants were also assured that their names would not be mentioned in the findings.
The safety audit walk revealed that there are some areas in the sectors of Munini, Kibeho and Mata that are unsafe for women and girls as well as other people in the community especially when it gets dark. The spaces include the downstream bridge (locally known as ‘Kumaziatukura) beside UNILEVER tea plantation in Kibeho sector. This area is located along the route that connects Rurembo and Viro villages and it is unsafe for pedestrians, but women and girls are at high risk of sexual assault and robbery. It was found that apart from the area being unsafe, the bridge itself was risky to cross because some pieces of wood were rotten, yet it is the only shortest route for many people in Gakoma cell especially from Rurembo and Viro villages.
Another area was Akanyarubridge adjacent to Munini UNILEVER tea. This place was also found to be unsafe for people and women and girls are most susceptible. The area is situated between Gacumu and Akagera village in Ngeri cell, Munini Sector. It makes women and girls feel unsafe especially when it gets dark. In fact, one of the safety audit’s walk team members testified that there was a time when thugs mugged a soldier who was crossing the bridge and robbed him of money.
Similarly, Muwamazibridge around SCON supported out growers’ tea plantation in Munini sector is another unsafe public space. It is located between Giheta and Gisiza village and it is insecure especially when it is dark. One of the female FGD participants revealed that one time, a woman was raped in this area by three unknown men at around 7 pm when she was coming from the market. Women and girls fear to walk in this area especially in the late evening because of the incidence of sexual violence against a woman that occurred in the area.
Moreover, the route after Rwamiko trading center in Mata Sector was found to be unsafe. It was noticed that the place is unsafe for not only women and girls but any person who pass around especially when it is dark. FGDs and KIIs revealed that generally public spaces in Mata sector especially routes from villages and cell to the main road are surrounded by forests and girls who walk to Rwamiko Secondary school are at risk of sexual harassment.
Safety and Security of Women and Girls in UNILEVER Catchment Areas
Findings show that sexual violence and harassment is a common occurrence in Kibeho, Munini and Mata sectors of Nyaruguru district and it is recognized as a social problem that mostly affects women and girls. Specifically, married women and young girls in and out of school were reported to be most vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment. It was revealed that while there are incidents of sexual violence and sexual harassment against women and girls in public spaces, more often than not they occur in households.
The safety audit revealed that in general, cases of violence and sexual harassment against women and girls on out grower’s tea plantations under the auspices of Services Company Out growers Nyaruguru (SCON) are uncommon. The physical facilities on out growers’ tea plantations were said to be unfriendly for women and girls. Many out growers’ tea plantations do not have separate toilets for men and women and some completely lack this facility. This makes women and girls feel unsafe as they are bound to share toilets with men. Moreover, out growers tea plantations supported by SCON lack women’ and girls’ safe room that can be used by females for menstrual hygiene.
It was also found that mothers do not properly breast feed their children due to lack of creches and the labor-intensive nature of their work on out growers’ tea plantation. This affects their productivity and makes them feel unsafe as their children do not get the required attention. Moreover, the plantations lack facilities for protection against lightning or shelter where workers can stay when it rains or take rest.
The public spaces that were reported to be risky for sexual violence and harassment against women and girls include bars, routes in some of the UNILEVER tea catchment areas, and some public construction sites. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bars were said to be no longer a haven for perpetrators of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
While duty bearers reported that the incidence of violence against women and girls in UNILEVER tea catchment area is low, the gravity of the problem is likely to be higher than perceived because FGDs with women and girls revealed that some cases are not reported. For instance, in 2020, cases of teenage mothers in Mata and Munini sectors who are victims of sexual harassment were 22. Similarly, from January to June 2021, there were 13 cases in both sectors. Nonetheless, it was pointed out that many women and girls do not report sexual violence and harassment perpetrated against them which makes it is difficult to determine the real situation in the sectors. It was revealed that non-partner sexual violence and harassment is particularly common among young girls in and out of school.
While out growers tea plantations supported by SCON does not recruit young children to work on tea plantations, FGDs with women and men revealed that at times some children use their parents’ ID cards and work on their behalf to ensure that their family continues to earn income in the absence of the parents due to family commitments or other reasons.
The safety audit revealed that, in households, male intimate partners are often the perpetrators while in public spaces young girls in and out of school are sexually harassed mainly by motorcyclists, some young men who sell boutiques as well as road constructors.
The main drivers of VAWG include among others, leaving tea plantations late, poverty, intra-family misunderstandings among spouses, long distance travelled by some girls to and from school especially in Mata sector.
Safety of women and girls on UNILEVER tea plantations
Women and girls affirmed that they had not experienced any incidence of sexual violence or harassment on UNILEVER tea plantations and that the organization is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all workers. It was said that priority is given to the safety and security concerns of workers including women and girls. It was also revealed that safety and security are emphasized in the safety policies, rules, and guidelines of UNILEVER and workers are cognizant and knowledgeable about these policies. For instance, when asked to cite example of the rules they knew, a case in point was the ten golden rules which were at the fingertips of all the FGD participants sampled from UNILEVER.
However, FGDs with some women and men working on UNILVER tea plantation workers revealed that they were not well conversant with issues of sexual violence and harassment. It was also noted that some women at times leave the tea plantations a bit late which exposes them to risks of violence and sexual harassment on their way home and in their households. In addition, it was found that while UNILEVER made initiatives to make provision for breastfeeding, the facility exists on only one tea plantation. Moreover the breast feeding facility is situated in one area far from some sites where mothers work. In addition, while there are safety facilities for lightning and gender sensitive toilets, all the plantations lack women’s and girls’ room for menstruation hygiene.
Main challenges to fostering safety of women and girls in UNILEVER tea catchment area
- Reluctance by some women and girls as well as community members to report incidents of SVAWG reportedly constrains efforts to foster safety of women and girls. Failing to report incidents of sexual violence was said to be attributed to the culture of silence among Rwandans, feeling of guilt, shame as well as attitudes that see violence as a private or family matter. Additionally, it was reported that some parents tempt their daughters at younger age to get married to the men who sexually harass and impregnate them hence violating the young girls’ right to free and full consent to a marriage.
- The safety audit revealed that many women, girls, men, and boys in the community have superficial knowledge and understanding of what sexual harassment and violence entail. This dearth of knowledge places women and girls at high risk of sexual violations.
- It was noted that the strategies on VAWG and gender equality are largely women centred. Yet, men equally need to be involved and sensitized regarding sexual violence and sexual harassment against women and girls. It was therefore suggested that it is imperative to actively involve local community men and boys in initiatives geared towards fighting VAWG. They have to be accountable to women’s and girls’ safety.
We recommend the following actions to address the identified gaps. A table under the section on recommendations outlines the targeted institution; major challenge/gap identified, and related recommendations.
To local Government Authorities:
- Security organs (police, DASSO, and RDF) should extend presence of security personnel and patrols especially Akanyaru bridge adjacent to Munini tea plantation that connects Ngeri cell to Giheta, the bridge near SCON supported out growers tea plantation that connects Giheta and Gisiza villages and other public spaces deemed unsafe for women and girls.
- Security organs (police, DASSO, and RDF) should strengthen the capacity of local security personnel at different local levels in prevention and response to violence and sexual harassment against women and girls in both rural public spaces and households.
- In a bid to provide effective service delivery regarding prevention and response to sexual violence and harassment against women, we recommend that the roles of RIB and the police regarding response to SVAWG be clearly differentiated and understood by the local community to avoid confusion.
- We recommend that comprehensive awareness raising campaign on sexual violence and harassment and other GBV issues should be carried out in schools and community youth centres on termly basis to reduce incidences of teenage pregnancies and GBV in general.
To CSOs and partners:
- Partner and work with UNILEVER and SCON to increase the awareness and understanding of supervisors, representatives of cooperatives/associations of out-growers tea plantation workers and security guards about sexual violence and sexual harassment, women’s and girls’ rights so as to strengthen their abilities in prevention and response to violence and sexual harassment against women and girls.
- Collaborate with local government authorities to train trainers especially village leaders, cell and sector council and inshuti z’ umuryango on SVAWG as well as prevention and response measures.
- We recommend that a men engage approach be established so that local community men and boys are actively involved initiatives for fighting against sexual violence and harassment perpetrated against women and girls as well as other GBV related issues. Specifically, CSOs and partners should take the lead.
- Collaborate with local government authorities, National Youth Council (NYC) and other actors and train trainers (youth representatives) on sexual violence, sexual harassment, women’s and girls’ rights, assertiveness and intra and interpersonal life skills so that they can train fellow youth.
- Collaborate with sectors authorities and school leaders and to train the youth especially girls in schools in Unilever catchment on sexual harassment and life skills such as assertiveness, self-awareness, perseverance and others so that they cannot be lured into sexual relations by some men especially motorists, which results in unplanned pregnancies.
To out growers tea plantation farmers supported by SCON:
- Devise ways of ensuring that workers on different out-growers’ tea plantations leave for home early to avoid risks for sexual violence and harassment and theft.
- Collaborate with UNILEVER and adapt the safety and labour rights best practices regarding working conditions particularly gender sensitive toilets and menstrual hygiene facility between tea plantations that are near each other because some plantations are too small and scattered in different areas.
- Strengthen measures against child labour so that some children stop using their parents’ ID card to work on their behalf.
- Establish viable internal gender sensitive organizational policies including anti-sexual violence and harassment of women, girls and men and communicate them to the workers.
- Collaborate with CSOs and other partners to organize training for tea plantation workers to enrich them with more knowledge and understanding of women’s rights, sexual violence and harassment and other GBV issues.
- Collaborate with Kibeho Sector and Viro cell authorities to renovate the bridge adjacent to Kibeho tea plantation and clear the bushes that may give cover for muggers around the area of the bridge and the route in general.
- Establish breast feeding facility on all the tea plantations and it should not be situated in one central area where mothers must walk to, sometimes from distant parts of the plantation.
- Collaborate with AJPRODHO and other partners to organize training for tea plantation workers to enrich them with more knowledge and understanding of women’s rights, sexual violence and harassment and other GBV issues.
- Devise ways of improvising a women’s and girls’ safe room on the tea plantations for menstrual hygiene.
- Devise ways of ensuring that workers especially women leave for home early so that they avoid risks of sexual violence and harassment on the way home.