ActionAid calls for a feminist response to corporate abuse as new report exposes persecution and mistreatment of women in four communities

  • Date: 24/10/2022
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

A new report by ActionAid, Pathways to A Feminist International Corporate Accountability Framework, has exposed the ways in which women disproportionately experience human rights abuses and violations at the hands of corporations. The report, released ahead of important negotiations at the United Nations on a proposed Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights in Geneva, reveals shocking corporate abuse of women from communities in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Guatemala.

Karol Balfe, CEO of ActionAid Ireland said:

“Women around the world continue to experience human rights abuses and violations from businesses and corporations differently and disproportionately from men.”

“In Uganda, over 35,000 people were internally displaced as a result of agribusinesses linked to the Global North. Women from Kapapura Nyamuntende and Kiryandongo communities were raped, evicted by armed men, and forced to work for the company responsible for destroying their homes and farms. In Zimbabwe, large-scale granite mining by Chinese and European companies in Zimbabwe has impacted women’s livelihoods and access to food disproportionately. In Guatemala, women advocating for their communities have faced criminalisation and repression following the environmental damage caused by nickel mining companies.”

There is a growing movement to regulate business activities in line with human rights obligations and planetary boundaries, which must be welcomed. However, fundamental questions remain as to whether this process is progressing fast and if it is adequately addressing abuses of women’s rights.”

Karol Balfe continued: “A Feminist UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights is urgent. We are calling on Ireland and the EU to engage constructively in the treaty process and build upon progress made so far. Ireland should ensure women are at the heart of the conversation; prevent harm to people and the planet related to business activities and make things rights when harms occur.”

“Women face significant barriers to access justice and discrimination in the labour market, they experience gender-based violence, as well as uneven domestic workloads and unpaid care duties. Systemic gender impacts connected to corporate activities are particularly felt by women in the Global South.”

The report can be viewed here: The report – Pathway to A Feminist International Corporate Accountability Framework

Key findings of the report

  • Large-scale agriculture activities in Uganda, including sugarcane, soybeans, maize, and grains by TNCs including Agile Partners, Kiryandongo Sugar Limited, and Great Season SMC limited, led to 35,000 people being forcibly evicted in the Kiryandongo district of Mid-Western Uganda.
  • Nickel mining in Guatemala by Solway Investment Group (with headquarters in Switzerland) has resulted in water pollution and loss of livelihoods for the indigenous Maya Q’eeqchi people in the departments of Izabel and Alta Verapaz. 
  • Black granite mining in Zimbabwe by Ilford Services Mining Company, Quarrying Enterprises, Zimbabwe International Quarries, Natural Stone Export Company, and Chinese-owned companies are implicit in labour rights abuses and have caused environmental degradation in the Mutokoo MT Darwin and Murehwa districts in Zimbabwe.
  • Sisal cultivation in Kenya by Teita Sisal Estate Limited has affected communities in Taita Tavet County in Southern Kenya, covering over 32,000 acres of land. The human rights harm to women includes an increase in sexual violence, an increase in care and work burden, and forced evictions.

The report is endorsed by ACCA, Act Alliance, AWID, FIDA Uganda, ISHR, IWRAW Asia Pacific and ZELA.

About the proposed United Nations Binding Treaty on Business & Human Rights

In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva convened to draft an international legally binding instrument that would regulate Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and businesses in relation to human rights. An open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) was formed to develop this legally binding instrument. The Third Revised Draft  and the textual proposals submitted by states at the 7th session will serve as the basis for the discussions at the event taking place on 24th – 28th October.

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