A United Kingdom (UK) company Camellia Group has paid 36 Malawian women a 2.3 million euros (about K2.4 billion) settlement for allegations of rape and gender-based violence on its subsidiary, Eastern Produce Malawi (EPM).
A statement issued by Leigh Day, a law firm that represented the women, indicates that the victims experienced gender-based violence, including rape and sexual harassment while working for EPM.
Leigh Day announced on Sunday that they had settled claims against the London-listed company which operates farms in Mulanje and Thyolo districts, through EPM.
The settlement includes compensation and initiatives to improve safety for female employees, training programmes and improvements to community facilities.
“I am delighted that we have been able to reach such a ground-breaking settlement,” said Sapna Malik, a lawyer at Leigh Day, who represented the 36 women.
She said the settlement also provides significant changes to the working practices at EPM to improve the safety and prospects of its women employees.
The claims were issued in the High Court in London on October 31 2019 against Camellia plc, Linton Park plc, Robertson Bois Dickson Anderson Limited and EPM.
Another statement issued earlier on February 11 2020 by Camellia Group states that the defendants agreed, with no admission of liability, a resolution of all claims brought against them by Leigh Day on behalf of the 36 women.
Reads the statement: “Settlement has been reached at a very early stage before service of legal proceedings, and so avoids, most importantly, for the women making these claims, drawn out and costly litigation in England.”
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati said though government regards tea companies as partners in development, it condemns the raping and abusing women, or any other malpractices, in tea estates.
She said: “As government we get concerned when we hear of such malpractices. My ministry and that of Labour condemn in totality allegations of women being abused in tea estates and other institutions.”
On his part, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation(CHRR) executive director Michael Kaiyatsa welcomed the settlement, saying it is a significant step towards addressing sexual harassment and other serious human right abuses by multinational companies.
It is expected that from the settlement, a new EPM Women’s Empowerment Initiative will fund projects to improve skills, employment opportunities, and educational attainment of women and girls in and around EPM’s operations.