We’re proud to support the Ethical Tea Partnership and have been providing essential funding since 2014 to support the ETP – UNICEF Improving Lives Programme in Assam, which is helping to improve the safety of girls living in tea communities across Assam.
Assam is one of our most important tea growing areas, but the large communities involved in tea in this region – one of the poorest in India – face deep-rooted challenges, to which women and children are especially exposed. Many young people leave school without a proper education and with limited opportunities for the future. Girls in particular are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking to the major cities outside of Assam. The region has been a particular focus for us in the last few years and we’ve been working hard to deliver meaningful change in the estate communities we buy from.
The ETP Unicef programme was set up as a ground breaking project to help change the lives of thousands of children living in three districts in Assam and over the last three years, the programme has brought about significant progress. Through our collaboration, we’ve improved the safety of over 35,000 girls across Assam by equipping them with essential skills to reduce the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. The programme has also formed 300 Child Protection Committees across tea communities in Assam to protect children against trafficking and unsafe migration.
The programme is now in its second stage — working with a quarter of all the tea estates in Assam to reach over 150,000 children and young people. Boys are also being included in the work through adolescent groups. The groups work with boys, aged 10 – 14, with an aim to challenge traditional attitudes about the role of girls and women, at a time when boys tend to gain autonomy, and girls tend to lose it. By challenging these traditional roles, the programme aims to create a safer and more equitable environment for girls and women.
In line with this work we are also one of the founding signatories of the Women, Children and Families’ in Assam Commitment. Together we will tackle some of the most challenging issues affecting women and children, including healthcare, child development and nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and child protection.