Domestic violence impacts women mentally and physically and restricts women’s complete participation in the workplace. In turn, it impacts businesses and employers when women employees face violence at home. The Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund activities put special focus on domestic violence and sexual harassment issues to ensure a safe workplace for women workers.
In the tea plantations in Assam domestic violence is common and perceived as part of life. In most cases, the community and women themselves do not recognize verbal, mental and physical abuse by intimate partners and family members as an issue. Cases are most of the time-resolved through in-community negotiations that do not provide justice and support to the women. Most employers perceive domestic violence to be outside of their influence as it occurs at home instead of the workplace.
Women, employers, and communities are unaware of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (PWDVA), India. The Act provides for immediate protection of women from violence, economic and psycho-social support to survivors and their children, financial compensation etc. Awareness of the law and its provisions can help women get rights to home/shelter, child custody and economic security.
IDH is working through the Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund (WSAF) in Assam towards making the women, community and employers (tea estates) aware of the law. Together with existing service providers outside of the tea estates we also aim to implement the Act.
During a training on gender-based violence conducted by WSAF implementing partners in September 2021, a group of women participants shared an example of domestic violence that they have witnessed the day before in their community. With the information they received in the training on the Act (PWDVA), they requested the trainer to provide further information on how to support the survivor.
Together with the trainers, they visited the victim at home and explained the provisions of the Act to the woman and to her partner. The partner promised in front of the community gathered that he would stop abusive behavior. The woman shared that she would reach out to the Mothers’ Club (women’s collectives in most tea estates that work for women and children’s wellbeing) and file a report if the abuse continues.
The WSAF activities, which include trainings, women’s safety assessment, formation and supporting of women’s collectives, building the leadership of women, etc., are designed to deepen women their understanding of gender-based violence, self-awareness, and collective action to prevent, report and reduce instances of violence against women in the tea estates.
We hope to see a reduction in the number of incidences and to see women, community and employers’ active participation to respond to and report each and every case of violence and promote gender equality through regular activities in the estates.
Women tea workers in Assam, India
Women in tea gardens make the largest workforce of women in Assam, India. Despite their indispensable role in the tea production, women work the lowest-paid jobs. These are also often physically demanding jobs that require long working hours, sometimes stretching to 10-12 hours during the plucking seasons. There are almost no women in management and the decision-making processes within the tea industry. Women workers are also absent from the negotiation and decision-making tables of the workers’ unions.
In the tea estates in Assam, women and girls face various forms of violence at home, in public places and at work. Domestic violence – abuse by intimate partner and families, eve-teasing, stalking and other forms of public harassment are faced commonly by women. In the discussions with adolescent and women’s groups during the trainings, many shared about incidences of violence they faced or have knowledge about. In the latest WSAF Diagnostic Study, 33% of women reported that they had faced an incident of violence in the last year. Most participants also shared that they have not been aware of reporting mechanisms like helpline numbers (181 for women, 112 for police, 1098 for children) available for medical, psycho-social, economic and legal support in a case of violence.
WSAF aims to enable safe and empowering workplaces for women workers. Through WSAF, investing companies address gender-based violence in agricultural value chains. The goal is to implement the UN Women Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces and to ensure that ‘all women and girls are socially, economically, and politically empowered in rural spaces that are free from sexual harassment and other forms of violence.’