It will provide life-skill training and education to nearly 25,000 girls and 10,000 community members to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation, besides strengthening child protection systems with local and national government and empower the tea industry to support positive change, said Tushar Rane, chief of Field Office, Unicef, Assam.
Although the project will be active in only select tea-gardens, the objective is that the impact will be sector-wide as the project aims to bring about systemic change through good-practice guidelines on child protection in the tea estates, responsible business practices for tea-estates, and support to the overall child protection structures and systems.
The project supported by Assam Government is to be the first of its kind as it brings together key stakeholders in the tea industry – both public and private organisations – and the supply chain to tackle child abuse and exploitation across the tea-sector.
Although representing 17 percent of the State’s population, the tea-communities are among the most marginalised and socially excluded groups in Assam with poor development indicators, exacerbated by traditional social norms such as child marriage and child labour, Rane said.
Education, especially for adolescent girls from the marginalised tea communities, still poses challenges due to concerns relating to access, language, and more importantly early marriage, and employment during adolescence, said Rane speaking at the launch of the programme.
“Child protection interventions in the tea-communities of Assam are of significant importance. The tea communities contribute 51 percent of India’s tea-production but remain marginalised,” he said.
Women and children from the tea-garden, Rane said form a core focus area of UNICEF’s social inclusion and equity programming in the State and the new partnership will build upon the existing interventions in the tea-gardens.
Diya Sharma of ETP congratulated the strong coalition of companies and organisations that have joined together to address some of the deep-rooted protection issues in the tea-garden.
Highlighting ETP’s commitment to improve the sustainability of the tea sector and the lives and livelihoods of those that produce it, Sharma said was happy to be partnering with UNICEF in Assam because it will give children, particularly girls and young women new life skills, improved confidence and much better opportunities in life than before.
Runumi Gogoi highlighted the need for a multi-pronged approach to strengthen child protection measures and the need for up-scaling the initiatives across the tea-garden community.