Delegates at the programme in Guwahati on Thursday. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, Dec. 18: Unicef today launched a joint project with seven prominent tea companies and retail chains in order for protection and welfare of children and adolescent girls in Assam's tea gardens.
The project, to be initially implemented in three major tea growing districts - Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar - aims to strengthen child protection mechanism and integrating child rights issues, promoting responsible business practices and building tea supply chain in the next three years.
Tushar Rane, chief of Unicef, Assam field office, said it would cover 104 tea gardens and 350 villages in their peripheries with a focus to empower and safeguard children and adolescent girls.
"Besides, 63 additional tea estates in these three districts will be gradually involved with various capacity building and advocacy initiatives. We will work in partnership with the tea community, garden owners, tea companies, government departments, police and all related agencies to make sure that the children in the tea gardens enjoy their rights guaranteed under different acts and child labour, child marriage and other issues are tackled jointly," Rane said.
Sixteen of the 27 districts in Assam have major tea cultivation and the state contributes more than 51 per cent of country's total tea production.
Tea workers, who were mostly brought by the British to Assam from eastern Indian and southeastern states before Independence, currently constitute about 20 per cent of the state's population. But welfare issues of the garden workers and their children have remained neglected and child labour, child marriage, trafficking, school dropouts and malnourishment still rampant.
Child Protection Chief of Unicef India, Joachim Theis said the project would also focus on affecting behavioural changes among tea communities. Chairperson of Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Runumi Gogoi, said child trafficking, child labour and child marriage were serious problems in the tea gardens.
The project aims to provide life-skill training and education to nearly 25,000 girls and 10,000 community members to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation. Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association, Bharatiya Cha Parishad, ASCPCR, Ethical Tea Partnership, among others today resolved to join Unicef as partners in the tea project.
The project is being funded by tea companies - Tata Global Beverages, Taylors of Harrogate, OTG, Typhoo, UK retailer Tesco and IDH and Sustainable Trade Initiative.
Anurag Priyadarshi, global sustainability head of Tata Global Beverages Ltd, said the company decided to join the project to ensure end of child labour and child abuse in tea gardens.