Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Claudia Mvula Pollen

An analysis of Women’s Agency in the Zambian Floriculture Industry using a Global Production Network Approach: Mechanisms and pathways for Agency

Photo of Claudia Mvula Pollen

The aim is to explore how employment in a global agricultural production network (GPN) might enhance women’s agency.  GPN literature focuses on companies, neglecting workers and the social dimensions of sustainability. Specifically, the objective is to investigate how women workers exercise their agency in the Zambian floriculture industry, focusing on the different strategies/resources that women use to exercise agency,   individually, at home and in the workplace, including forms of organizing.  This contributes to broader questions of whether economic upgrading of the GPN is accompanied by social upgrading, i.e. the social and gender benefits from expansion into non-traditional agricultural exports.


I was born and raised in Zambia. I studied my undergraduate degree at the University of Zambia in Development Studies and graduated in 2007. I was then appointed as a Staff Development fellow (teaching assistance in 2008) at the same University in the Department of Development Studies. I went on to do a masters in Globalization and Development at the university of Antwerp in Belgium and graduated in 2010. After completion, I was appointed to the position of lecturer in the Department of Development studies to which am currently holding but have been granted study leave. Main responsibilities involved preparation of study material for students, preparation and administration of examinations, tests, assignments and tutorial quizzes, offering academic guidance to students and conducting various consultancies on development issues.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

One particular area within development that continues to be of major interest is gender issues and how these are translated in our daily life. Specifically, how women can combine reproductive and productive work within the broader employment conditions embedded in a competitive labour market embedded in value chains. It is no surprise that the majority of the Zambia’s population of women depend on working in agricultural activities that are responsible for most of their livelihood survival. Therefore it has become cardinal for development analysts like myself to look into how global value chains can work for the poor particularly poor women involved in demanding industries like the floriculture industry in Zambia. I am therefore interested in understanding the different narratives of women worker’s lives and highlighting the different experiences that can be learned from women working in the floriculture industry of Zambia. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

My educational background has instilled me with the qualities required to meet the rigor of this demanding profession.  Having graduated in Development studies for my undergraduate Degree and Globalisation and development for my masters, Gender issues both at local and international within global value chains formed the major part of my studies. Therefore, my experiences as a lecturer and researcher in Women and Development has enabled me to have a strong foundation in understanding the different challenges and opportunities that continue to halt the development of our country Zambia. 

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I intend to go back to lecture and conduct more research on different gender issues from my department at the University of Zambia. I also want to create a favorable bridge between my academic work at the university of Zambia and Development practitioners based in the NGO world in bringing to light different narratives of women working in other sectors of the economy and the policy implications that can be formulated.  I intend to continue mentoring my students and hopefully open a research institute where more research will be done on different gender issues affecting our country every day.

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