January 30, 2020

Prickly Roses: Coming to a cinema near you!

The practice of giving flowers is now part of our culture. We receive flowers on Valentine’s Day, when we are celebrating a promotion, or when we are in a hospital bed to cheer us up. The blues, reds, whites and pinks in a bouquet of flowers not only communicates love, joy and affection but also screams appreciation, sympathy and sometimes apologies. It is the most elegant manner of communicating feelings. However, the striking beauty of flowers and the powerful emotions they evoke very rarely set us on a path of thinking about what effort is put into their growing, nurturing and packaging. Or who does all the work.

The floriculture sector in Ugandan employs up to 60-75% women who do the work of weeding, harvesting, packing and labelling flowers. Most of the flowers are grown for export marking the sector as a strong foreign exchange earner and creator of jobs. Monthly salaries for permanent workers range between UGX 90000 (25 USD) to UGX 300,000 (82 USD) for an average 50 hour work week. This remuneration remains insufficient to cater to the workers’ basic needs leaving them quite vulnerable. Although the industry has made significant progress in ensuring security and safety in the workplace, a number of employers have been found to be in violation with some workers having little or no protective gear. The issue of sexual harassment also remains pervasive as especially at the point of entry into employment. In spite of their significant contribution to the economy and the obstacles they face, the stories and experiences of the women holding up this industry remain largely unknown.

Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA) in partnership with Nabwiso Films under the auspices of the Women@Work Campaign supported by Hivos East Africa will premiere a film titled “Prickly Roses” which dramatizes the lives of women working on flower farms in Uganda. The premiere will take place on the 13th February 2020 in Kampala- Uganda. The film looks to raise public awareness about the working conditions of women working on flower farms with the larger goal of igniting discourse and actions around improving these conditions. The film is also intended to be an advocacy tool in catalyzing the conclusion of the ongoing review of legal and policy frameworks such as the Employment Act, 2016; the Sexual Offences Bill, 2015; and the Minimum Wage Bill 2015 which will serve to strengthen protections that workers are entitled to. Lastly, the film will serve as a clarion call for the ratification of the ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the world of work.