India is a major tea producing nation: two million people in the country work in the industry. The north-eastern state of Assam is a key tea growing region.
The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) has worked with tea communities in India over many years. We are therefore very aware of the complex, sometimes hidden, issues facing tea communities.
We are aware that more needs to be done in Assam, and so together with Unicef in June 2018 we launched an industry first, collective commitment for women, children and families in Assam.
Reflections from Executive Director at Unicef UK, Mike Penrose:
“This partnership is a good example of businesses coming forward and taking collective responsibility for the impact they are having on the people working in their supply chain”.
Click here to read more from Mike Penrose on how we’re working together to drive change in Assam through our Commitment and Improving Lives programme, which covers a quarter of tea estates in Assam and is the biggest of its kind in the region.
The Women, Children and Families in Assam Commitment sets out the shared principles and collective goals that we as concerned stakeholders in the tea supply chain, including producers and buyers, commit to upholding and pursuing in support of the children, women and their families in the Assam tea estates.
They are based on international human and labour rights frameworks and build on a child rights impact assessment carried out during the ETP-UNICEF partnership in 2014 – 2018, which sought to understand the complex situation for families on the estates.
The programme’s research included extensive consultation with tea estate workers and their children, tea estate management, healthcare professionals, childcare providers, civil society organisations, trade unions, representatives from tea industry associations, international tea buyers, and government representatives.
Reflections from Head of Children’s Rights & Business at UNICEF UK, Charlotte Williams:
“The systemic challenges women and children face in the Assam tea estates means that no one organisation has the ability to address these alone.
The Improving Lives programme with ETP has seen over 35,000 girls take part in Girls Groups learning skills that will help them keep safe, maternity benefits have been extended to all non-permanent women workers residing in the tea estates, and we’ve seen tea garden management develop business action plans to address issues from childcare to workplace breastfeeding practices.
One of the key success factors for the programme is this supply chain collaboration. The programme is now taking place on over a quarter of tea estates in Assam”.
Who’s signed up
The founding signatories of the Women, Children, and Families Commitment are:
- To respect human rights, and to promote respect for human rights, across the supply chain
- To act in the best interests of the child
- To uphold the principle of the equality between women and men, and boys and girls
- To work as individual organisations, and collectively, to achieve lasting change for the tea sector
- To respect and support the right of workers to make decisions about their lives and futures.
- Tea estate workers, their families and communities have increased access to high quality healthcare
- Tea estate workers, their families and communities have access to food that meets their nutritional needs
- Systemic drivers that keep children out of school are better understood and being addressed on the tea estates
- Children and women are being better protected from gender-based violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation, unsafe migration and child marriage
- Children have increased access to quality primary and secondary school education, as well as vocational skill training, which develops their personality, talents and abilities
- Women workers have better access to equal employment opportunities and maternity benefits that protect the health and development of themselves and their children, enabling them to achieve a decent standard of living
- Lactating women are better able to breastfeed in safe spaces without being penalised for taking time out of the working day
- Parents have increased access to quality childcare facilities
- Living conditions for workers and their families are safe, clean and decent.
Find out more
Thanks to our partnership with Unicef, 35,000 girls across Assam in India have better lives. Read how together we’re changing young people’s lives in Assam.
We also work directly with tea communities and tea workers in Assam to support them to tackle some of the issues they are facing and give them their own voice. We help them to design and implement their own action plans about the challenges they identify. You can read more about our ground-working Community Empowerment Programme here.