DIBRUGARH, April 25 - The initiative to empower adolescent girls of plantations through regular capacity building, motivation and various social intervention programmes by Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (ABITA) in support with UNICEF is steadily paying off at least Upper Assam gardens.
The generations of plantation workers and their dependents whose identity has often been marred with social concerns like child labour, child marriage, illiteracy, human trafficking and other taboos, are gradually becoming aware of their rights and responsibilities. No doubt, this community has witnessed exploitation and neglect in varying degrees in different phases from those at the helm of affairs, but ABITA’s effort is truly empowering the community, particularly the adolescent girls in standing for their rights and making them responsible citizens.
Maloti Tassa, one of the beneficiaries of the ABITA-UNICEF programme from Greenwood tea estate said that she would build her career and would tie the knot only when she establishes herself with an independent career.
“I had made up mind not to marry at tender age. Right now, my priority is studies. I am looking forward for an independent career,” said Maloti Tassa. She had joined the Adolescent Girls Club formed by ABITA-UNICEF in 2008 as a member and was educated on the ill effects of early marriage, child labour and trafficking etc.
In 2015, she was chosen as a club leader of ‘Puhar’ Adolescent Girls Club of Greenwood tea estate and in the mean time also completed her HSLC examination. Similarly Sunoti Munda, a Class IX dropped out from Duliabam tea estate resumed her studies following intervention from the Jeuti Adolescent Girls Club of the garden. She had given up studying for two reasons; lack of money and frequent violence in the family caused by drunkard father.
She became a member of Jeuti Adolescent Girls Club of Dulibam tea estate and was regularly attending the weekly meeting sessions held with the adolescent girls. After she had narrated her ordeal the Club members took a decision to visit her home and negotiate with her parents to allow her to continue her studies. They discussed the issue of consumption of alcohol and requested her father to ensure that studies of children are not affected by his drunkard behaviour. The parents were convinced by the club members and later facilitated enrollment of Sunoti Munda into school again. As communicated to The Assam Tribune, she is now completing her High School.
ABITA Zone 1 in support with UNICEF has been working on capacity building and empowerment of adolescent girls in tea gardens on a range of issues. Under this initiative 246 Adolescent Girls Clubs have been formed in 115 tea gardens where more than 21000 adolescent girls are registered as members.
“In the recent times changes in tea community, especially among the adolescent girls have been noticed in tea garden areas. Majority of the girls are willing to continue their higher studies by ignoring early marriage which is a common social norm within the tea community now,” said Madhurjya Barooah, Secretary, ABITA Zone 1.
Empowerment through sports is also helping the girls of the plantation to look for career options in sports. Binita Tanti, an adolescent from Rupai tea estate is one such member who developed athletic attitude with the help of ABITA. She is a member of the Smariti Adolescent Girls Club of Rupai Tea Estate.
“She attended a 12-day long football workshop at Rupai tea estate as a short distance runner after which she developed athletic attitude and eventually won first prizes in 100 meter and 200 meter races recently in Tinsukia District Sports Association (TDSA) Stadium. She was also recently hired by LFC team of Arunachal Pradesh to participate in a football match. She is looking forward to emulate the great athlete Hima Das of the state,” said Barooah.