Training on Stress Management for women flower Farm workers

Posted by: haki_mashinani
Category: hmk, media-monitoring


For many people, Sunday afternoon is a time to relax as they prepare for a new week ahead. But this is not so for Mary Syombua (not her real name), a flower farm worker in Naivasha and a resident at Kiandege Slums.

On this day, Syombua has joined her fellow flower farm workers for a two hour session to build her skills on Stress Management. The course is being offered by Haki Mashinani, one of the partners in the Women@Work Campaign.

Despite her responsibilities at home, Syombua is excited to participate in this session for a number of reasons. One of her objectives is to learn how to manage her own stress both at the work place and at home. The second one is to use the skills learnt to help her fellow workers and her neighbours in times of difficulty.

Syombua says that for the four years she has lived in Naivasha, she has worked in one of the flower farm’s grading section, which can be very stressful.

Her day begins at 4.00 am by preparing her two children for school and attending to house chores. She then drops her two year old daughter at the day-care within the slum before catching her company transport at 6.45 am.

“I officially begin work at 7.00 am. But I am not sure what time I will clock off due to the nature work. Sometimes it ends at midnight.” “Grading department,” she adds, “is the toughest job in the flower farms as I have to work on 3,500 stems before I can retire for the day.”

This unpredictable schedule has forced her to hire the services of a neighbour, a vegetable vendor, to help her tend to her children when they come from school. She pays her Kshs 50 (US$ 0.5) per day.

“My salary is pegged on production and not monthly wages and so it varies from one month to the next. Bonuses are only allocated once we reach the target which most of the time is impossible.”

Syombua laments that many women have to work for many hours or risk losing their jobs in the event they fail to produce to the capacity required by the supervisors.

This sometimes forces them to work up to midnight as they struggle to meet the set targets. But it comes at a price. Living in the slums, Syombua says this has exposed women to sexual violations when they return home late at night or have to leave very early in the morning.

Such pressure makes it difficult for many women to balance between demands at home and at work. It is this situation that has forced many women to spent most of their time at work, compromising their parenting role. Scenarios like this are sinking women deeper in depression.

I know fellow women workers who go into depression when they realise that their children have not been going to school. Some of them opt to surrender the children to their grandparents in the rural areas,” adds Syombua.

Syombua’s story is common among women workers who have to content with pressure at the work place and at home.

This is neither good for them nor the flower farms. Experts note that cumulative stress leads to low production and increases conflict among the workers.

According to a Shop Steward, who requested to remain anonymous, most of the flower farms do not offer psychosocial support for their workers.

“Most committees set up in the farms only push for labour rights and policies but not soft issues such as stress management and offering psychosocial support for their employees,” she adds.

Syombua notes that there are instances when employees pretend they are sick to enable them seek counselling services from nurses in the health facility at the farm.

Stress management skills needed

According to Thaddeus Nyandika, a Programme Officer at Haki Mashinani, the training on stress management came up as a need during previous sessions held for the women workers.

“We believe that this training is basic and will go a long way in helping others within and outside the farms. This is because many farms still do not have systems where employees can seek psychosocial support,” says Nyandika.

Besides capacity building for workers, Nyandika says there is need to engage management of farms to employ counsellors who will offer psychosocial support services to the employees.

“This is another way of enhancing production in the farms as employees will be stable, full of energy, and happier,” he notes.

Author: haki_mashinani
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