Learning Paper Release: Partner Africa’s Gender-Sensitive Audit Pilot

Partner Africa’s Gender-Sensitive Audit Pilot enhances social audits by making them more sensitive to gender issues

Partner Africa prides itself on responding swiftly and methodically to global issues affecting vulnerable workers engaged in African supply chains. With gender issues rapidly gaining attention around the world, this project, commissioned by Tesco and Co-op, and undertaken by Partner Africa, assisted with gaining a clearer picture of how these issues can be more effectively identified and tackled within Africa’s supply chains.

Globally, there is widespread reliance on social audits to verify fair labour practices in the workplace. Even though women represent the majority of the workforce in global supply chains, the specific needs and issues of women are rarely integrated into the key focus areas of social audits. In addition, standard social audits are incredibly limited in the ways in which they address women’s rights and gender issues.

Can a more gender-sensitive approach to social auditing detect real and potential gender issues more effectively?

With the aim of answering this question, this gender-sensitive audit project looks at addressing this issue by enhancing existing audit practices and templates to ensure that they are more gender sensitive.

The Sedex SMETA Methodology is the dominant compliance monitoring methodology used by many UK retailers, and the most relevant standard for Tesco and Co-op. This pilot project adapted the standard SMETA audit methodology to be more sensitive to gender issues in the workplace and was piloted with 5 suppliers, representing 3 regions and 4 countries in Africa.

Sorting seeds on a production line

Post-Implementation Learnings:

  • Establishing management systems that prevent such issues from occurring in workplaces in the future.
  • Implementing accessible procedures through which workers can report gender issues.

Special thanks to:

  • Sedex, a membership-based organisation whose auditing methodology comprises Smeta, who collaborated on the project and permitted the piloting of its adapted gender-sensitive auditing tools and methodologies by Partner Africa social auditors.
  • To all the suppliers that participated in this pilot project.
In conclusion, this pilot project has proven that gender-sensitive social audits can make a meaningful contribution to highlighting women’s vulnerabilities in global supply chains, and acts as a first step for creating an environment in which gender issues can be addressed effectively and sustainably.

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