Jump to main content
IndustriALL logotype

Workers confront sexual exploitation at Ugandan cardboard manufacturing factory

Read this article in:

9 July, 2024Following a series of training workshops to stop gender-based violence, workers are confronting the perpetrators as heard in testimonies at IndustriALL women’s committee meetings.

One such testimony was narrated by Mukyala Nambi* on 15 June. She works at Riley Packaging factory in Mukono – about 22 km from Kampala. The factory makes corrugated cardboard boxes for packaging. Nambi has worked at the factory for nine years. Riley Packaging employs over 600 workers, 120 of whom are women, and exports its products to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.

Nambi recalls:

“It is knock-off time after our long working day which starts at 7 am and ends at 7 pm. I am preparing to go home when the production manager summons me to his office. The manager does not explain why he wants to meet me alone in his office after the factory had closed for the day. I am suspicious of his motives and refuse to meet him. The manager is furious. The next day he began sexually harassing me.

“The manager intimidated and verbally abused me. He yelled at me on the factory floor threatening me with dismissal unless I agreed to his advances.”

Without fear, Nambi, a shop steward at the factory, stood firm against the harassment and told the manager that workers had rights protected by the labour laws and Uganda’s constitution. Further, she started to conduct investigations on the manager’s behaviour and found out some cases of sexual abuse of young women workers especially those employed on short contracts who were promised permanent jobs.

The wages at the factory are low. Nambi earns 300,000 Uganda shillings (US$80) per month while contract workers are paid 200,000 shillings (US$53).

“Once I had gathered enough evidence, I immediately reported him to the director and the human resources department. The manager was dismissed after disciplinary action,”

said Nambi. Further, the manager was reported to the immigration department resulting in his deportation from Uganda back to India for violating the conditions of his work permit and forgery.

Nambi attributes her courage in confronting the perpetrator to the gender-based violence and harassment training that Ugandan workers from IndustriALL affiliated unions received from a project supported by the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA) and the IndustriALL Sub Saharan Africa regional office. She says the training empowered her to stand against sexual harassment at her workplace. The training covered topics on the implementation of International Labour Organization Convention 190 to end violence and harassment in the world of work that Uganda ratified in 2023. Other topics were on the inclusion of clauses to curb gender-based violence and harassment in collective bargaining agreements.

“We applaud Nambi for her bravery in confronting the perpetrator. One of the core issues in our GBVH training is an emphasis on strengthening reporting mechanisms and the development of the workplace policies that commit to ending sexual harassment. To achieve this, the affiliates in Uganda are working with the factory owners to have gender policies in place and we commend these efforts,”

says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

IndustriALL affiliates that benefited from the training included the Uganda Printers, Paper, Polyfibre and Allied Workers Union, Uganda Textile, Garment, Leather and Allied Workers Union and Uganda Hotels, Food, Tourism, Supermarket and Allied workers Union.

*Please note that the name has been changed to protect the person's privacy.