Tackling Exploitation and Trafficking in Tea Communities in India

Today the CNN Freedom Project, which highlights issues of modern slavery across the globe, has been focusing on trafficking of young people from tea communities to exploitative situations in India’s cities.

ETP has been working in India for many years and is aware of the challenges of trafficking and child protection issues in the regions where it works. In 2014, ETP and UNICEF launched a ground-breaking partnership programme to protect and change the lives of thousands of young people living in Assam that will help reduce their vulnerability to exploitation including trafficking.

According to the Global Slavery Index, India has the largest numbers of people living in conditions of modern slavery1; 14 million out of an estimated 30 million globally. With more than 80 million Indian children (41% of the child population) leaving school each year without completing eight years of education, and 43% of girls married before they are 18, young women from rural communities are often left with few choices.

Working across 350 communities and 100 tea estates, the three-year ETP-UNICEF partnership will equip more than 25,000 girls with knowledge and skills that will help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse, and exploitation – watch the video.

So far, Adolescent Girls Groups and Child Protection Committees have been established in tea estates and communities to ensure young people and their families understand their rights and are kept safe from traffickers. Over 1,000 front-line workers and community members have been trained in child protection issues and workshops have been run to improve the way child protection cases are handled. As a result of the UNICEF-ETP programme, Assam became the first Indian state to hold a Child Protection Day (4th March) to increase awareness of child protection issues and children’s rights, which is now an annual event.

The UNICEF-ETP partnership also brought together 150 senior representatives from government, industry, health and education services, trade unions, and civil society to look at how the regulatory framework (Plantation Labour Act) needs to change to help improve the lives of children and their families living on tea estates in Assam. Recommendations and improvements to health, nutrition, education, childcare, water, and sanitation service provision were also made and are currently being considered by the Assam and national governments.

The three-year programme is supported and funded by: IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative; ETP members Tesco, Tata Global Beverages (Tetley, Tata Tea), Taylors of Harrogate (Yorkshire Tea), OTG; and Typhoo. For further insight from those involved in the programme visit the ETP blog.

Read our full position statement: Ethical Tea Partnership – Supporting Change in Assam (15 03 16)

1Includes debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking.