Indian tea is crucial to most tea blends and Assam is a key region, important for both export and India’s massive domestic tea market. Like many other rural communities, tea communities in Assam face many challenges, particularly in relation to child protection. More than 80 million Indian children a year – 41% of the child population leave school without completing eight years of education, and 43% of girls are married before they are 18.
ETP has been working in India for many years and we have become increasingly aware of some of the more hidden issues facing tea communities, including the vulnerability of young people to trafficking and offers of work in cities, which turn out to be highly exploitative.
How ETP is helping
Independent third-party auditing helps ensure everyone working on tea estates is above the legal age and that there are good working conditions in place. The vulnerability of young people to exploitation is an issue that cannot be dealt with or rectified by an auditing programme that focuses on working conditions on estates.
Instead, they require serious intervention at a number of levels including national and regional government, direct work with communities, and partnerships with the appropriate child protections agencies. Over the years, ETP has been tackling deeper and more complex problems, and while issues such as these are outside our expertise, given our position within the sector we felt we could, and should, be part of the solution.
Working in partnership with UNICEF
In September 2014, ETP and UNICEF launched a ground-breaking three-year programme, supported and funded by IDH the Sustainable Trade Initiative; ETP members Tesco, OTG1 (Meßmer), Tata Global Beverages (Tetley, Tata Tea), and Taylors of Harrogate (Yorkshire Tea); and Typhoo, to help protect and change the lives of thousands of children living in three districts of Assam.
UNICEF’s Anuradha Chandran explains, “Ultimately this partnership will lead to more than 25,000 girls being equipped with the knowledge and life skills to help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse, and exploitation. The project will also ensure that at least 10,000 other community members are trained and empowered to prevent child exploitation from happening in tea communities. UNICEF will work with national and regional government and enforcement agencies to strengthen child protection and crack down on trafficking in Assam.”
The three-year Assam programme will work with 350 communities linked to more than 100 tea estates, and will specifically:
- Equip more than 25,000 girls with the knowledge and life skills that will help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse, and exploitation;
- Give more than 10,000 community members the knowledge and training to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse, and exploitation;
- Make families in each community aware of children’s rights and the support they can call on to help educate and protect their children;
- Work with state and district government to improve the quality of education and the effectiveness of child protection policies to help make a sustainable difference to the lives of children now and in many years to come.
Ultimately this programme is supporting young women in tea communities to better understand their rights and works with them and their communities to enable them to have more control over their lives and become agents of change within their communities. We hope in this way we can help protect these young women and other girls in the community from trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
 Ostfriesische Tee Gesellschaft – Germany’s leading tea packing company
Read the full press release: Ground-breaking new tea partnership to tackle abuse and trafficking in Indian tea communities