Promoting safe and secure workplaces for women in the agribusiness sector

In September 2015, UN Women signed an agreement with USAID to provide a mechanism to advance safe, secure, and women-friendly workplaces within the agribusiness sector in Egypt. The project targets six agribusiness firms and related value-chains in Upper Egypt to assist them to reposition themselves as models in gender-balanced workplace policies and attitudes, as well as inclusive work environments that address sexual harassment, promote equal job opportunities and equal wage for work of equal value, and provide incentives for female employees’ retention, and low rate of absenteeism amongst women.

The project tailors its support to the needs of the targeted agribusiness firms by building the understanding and capacity of management, staff, related supply chain actors, women farmers and workers at processors and factories, farmers’ associations , and communities adjacent to the companies.. The project builds on similar initiatives in Egypt and the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region such as UN Women’s Gender Equity Seal to promote gender equality and productivity in private firms, and the Gender Sensitive Value Chain Analysis, with the recognition that sustainable change must be locally-owned and led.

Interventions with the selected agribusiness firms include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Internal and External Gender Sensitive Value Chain Analysis for the participating firms to determine the degree of conformance to the standards of the Women Empowerment Principles1 (WEPs) and identify where required interventions to promote safe and secure workplaces for women
  • Signage and adoption of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) that offer practical guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community and offer opportunities for international recognition for participating firms that increase chances for outside investment and development.
  • Human Resource Support and Capacity Development to Management and Staff that include awareness raising sessions for female/male workers and management to encourage communication and build in the knowledge of women friendly workplace practices.

The end-result of those interventions is to:

  1. Achieve a more gender-inclusive environment along the agricultural value chains reflected in improved work environment for female employees in the agribusiness firms receiving United States Government assistance
  2. Policy adoption: Improved gender equity and safety at work policies adopted by agribusiness firms,
  3. Behavior change: Increased awareness about gender equality in agribusiness firms receiving United States Government assistance, and
  4. Business case: Improved productivity of agribusiness firms adopting women-friendly policies.

It is worth mentioning that this programme is being implemented with the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Through the UN Women “Women’s Employment Promotion Programme” that is funded by USAID, agribusiness firms had access to integrate an automated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that includes trade Indicators for Egypt and various modules on personnel, payroll, attendance, cost/revenue and stores’ management. The system secures a good record for workers and helps corporates with their key performance indicators (KPIs). All data is encrypted and segregated by sex and age which enable users to have an open eye on gender issues and calculation of labor productivity based on which the incentives are provided and promotion schemes are developed. The ERP system is available at for free usage on a national level.