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Brewing up a ground-breaking partnership

February 2015

UNICEF and The Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) has launched a landmark new partnership that will improve the lives of thousands of children and young people living in the tea communities of Assam, India and reduce their vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking. 

A new industry-wide partnership combines UNICEF expertise in child protection with commitment from all key stakeholders in the tea supply chain to address child protection issues; it is the first collaboration of its kind involving the tea industry at state, community and national level.

ETP, a membership organisation of tea companies and retailers that works to improve the lives of tea workers, smallholder farmers, and environment in which tea is produced, will use their reach with producers at all levels of the supply chain and unique understanding of the tea sector to help ensure the project’s success.

The three year partnership, which will provide education, engagement and empowerment programmes, will be funded by the Dutch Sustainable Trade initiative (IDH), and ETP members: Tesco; OTG ; Tata Global Beverages (Tetley, Tata Tea); and Taylors of Harrogate (Yorkshire Tea), and Typhoo.

Across India every year, more than 80 million children leave school without completing eight years of education and 43% of girls are married before the age of 18. In rural areas, especially those that grow and produce tea, child protection issues, particularly for girls, are a huge challenge. Children who live in these communities can be difficult to reach with their vulnerability exacerbated by a number of issues including poverty, gender inequality and caste discrimination.

UNICEF has been working in India, alongside the government, for over six decades to create and strengthen child protection structures and protect young people, particularly girls, from exploitation and abuse.

This experience tells us that it is only when grassroots community work is combined with a commitment by all the key stakeholders in the tea industry - the private and public sector, government and the supply chain – that a long term difference can be made to the lives of children and young people.

The ambition through this multi-stakeholder partnership is to strengthen the child protection response in Assam to prevent child labour and trafficking, thus changing the lives of thousands of children.

Peer to peer groups, which are designed to give young girls the confidence they need to stand up for their rights – such as not being forced into a marriage – and ensure that they are better able to enjoy their childhood will form a centre point of this ground-breaking new partnership.

The partnership will initially focus on rolling these peer to peer groups out across 350 communities in over 100 estates across 3 districts of Assam. This will lead to more than 25,000 girls being equipped with the knowledge and ‘life skills’ to help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation.

Through the creation of child protection committees, this project will also ensure that at least 10,000 other community members are trained and empowered to prevent child exploitation from happening in tea communities and so they better understand children’s rights.

Empowering communities with knowledge about the reality of traffickers is crucial as often they are ignorant about the fact they are handing their daughters over to be trafficked, thinking that instead they are giving them a chance of a better life.

The child protection committees will give them a forum to openly discuss such issues, and as community members generally know which families are vulnerable to allowing their children to be trafficked due to their financial situation, they will work proactively to identify these families to see how they can support them through this period. This intervention at community level will help ensure that child protection structures are more robust and better able to protect vulnerable young girls.

Tea estate owners’ knowledge of child protection will be increased through a range of work using existing structures such as village organisations and tea estates’ welfare officers and mother clubs, to help make sure that everyone understands why it is important to protect children and how they can keep them safe.

By taking a multi-stakeholder approach and working with the state government and enforcement agencies to strengthen child protection in Assam, together we hope to reduce the number of children in danger.

The collective ambition in forming such an alliance is to make a lasting difference to communities by providing long-term solutions. UNICEF has been working in India for over sixty years, by combining this expertise with ETP’s deep and longstanding relationships in Assam, we have the opportunity to create long lasting change for thousands of children. 

Global | Partnerships

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