Around one million women work in the tea gardens of Assam, producing more than 50% of tea in India, which is the second-largest tea producer in the world. Despite their indispensable role in tea production, their living and working conditions have been a concern for human rights indicators. Women also work the lowest-paid jobs, such as plucking and pruning, which are physically demanding.
The tea plantations are both workplace and home for many workers. The lines between the two are often blurred. Women workers often experience domestic violence and harassment in public places inside and outside the tea gardens.
To address the complex and sensitive social sustainability issue of gender discrimination and violence, IDH has several programs focused on this that we are implementing with our partners.
For example, IDH has also been working through its partners to address gender-based violence and for empowering women and girls in the tea sector in Assam. The ‘Improving the lives of women and children in Assam’s tea communities’ program engages with tea plantations and the broader tea community in Assam to address, promote and integrate human rights and mechanisms to address gender-based violence within the business practices of the tea industry.
In 2020, IDH and Unilever have come together to develop a fund to support tea producers to provide specialized services and set up mechanisms to address gender-based violence, strengthen prevention and ensure women’s safety and empowerment in the tea gardens. Launching in Assam, the Fund aims to accelerate the scale of the UN Women ‘Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces’ by leveraging the efforts and capacity of local NGOs and suppliers to drive more sustainable, long-term shifts in safety within the tea supply chain.