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Tea Plantation (1)

Leigh Day settles claims against the Camellia Group arising out of rape and other forms of gender-based violence on Malawian tea estates

Posted on 14 February 2021

Leigh Day represents 36 Malawian women who allege that they have experienced gender-based violence (including, in some cases, rape) and sexual harassment during the course of their work on tea estates in the Mulanje and Thyolo districts of Malawi, while employed by Eastern Produce Malawi Ltd “EPM”, an indirect subsidiary of Camellia plc.

These claims were issued in the High Court in London on 31 October 2019 against Camellia Plc, Linton Park Plc, Robertson Bois Dickson Anderson Limited, together “the English Defendants” and EPM. Leigh Day can confirm that they have agreed the settlement of all claims against EPM and the English Defendants brought by these women.

An innovative settlement of these claims has been agreed that includes compensation for the Claimants and the establishment of a number of measures designed to improve the safety and security of EPM’s female employees and improve conditions for women in the wider community. These measures include a Women’s Empowerment Initiative which will fund projects to improve the skills, employment opportunities, and educational attainment of women and girls in and around EPM's operations, providing benefits both to the Claimants and the wider community.

These projects include EPM Gender Equality Scholarships for 10 women, comprising guaranteed tuition and living costs throughout an undergraduate degree/other higher education course in Malawi; a specialist female leadership training programme to support the career progression of women into more senior positions at EPM; funding community civic education programmes concentrating on Sexual Harassment and Gender Equality; relocating and upgrading primary school facilities to include a community meeting hall; building and maintaining boreholes in locations designed to benefit women and children locally to EPM's estates; and establishing three new Victim Support Units at local police units.

Consultations are to be held with stakeholders, including women working and living in and around EPM, to ensure these projects have maximum impact. A consultant has been engaged by EPM to monitor, guide and oversee, independently, EPM's Women's Empowerment

In addition, EPM has agreed to make changes to its working practices designed to improve the safety and working conditions of women working on its estates. These include the installation of cameras at key locations, the provision of personal attack alarms, and a new role of “Women’s Safeguarding Officer”. In addition, EPM will provide an enhanced training programme for women, to encourage them to progress into supervisory and management positions.

Importantly, Eastern Produce Malawi has established an independently monitored Operational-level Grievance Mechanism to ensure that any individual who wishes to raise a grievance in relation to gender-based violence and/or sexual harassment at its operations is able to obtain appropriate remedy promptly. The Operational-level Grievance Mechanism will be overseen by international experts.

Leigh Day acknowledges that the Defendants have taken the Claimants’ allegations seriously and have been proactive and constructive in addressing the wider issues raised by the Claimants and other female employees through this case.

Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day, commented:

“I am delighted that we have been able to reach such a ground-breaking settlement with the Defendants, which provides not only compensation for my clients, but also significant changes to the working practices at EPM to improve the safety and prospects of its women employees. The wide range of measures to be implemented by EPM under its Women’s Empowerment Initiative, should also bring meaningful improvements and opportunities to women and children in the communities in which EPM operates for years to come.”

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