Minakshi is a 13-year-old girl living on a tea estate in Assam. When she was 10 she was forced to leave school and become a maid in a nearby household, meaning that she was missing out on both education and childhood, until the Child Protection Committee (CPC) stepped in. These CPCs were set up as part of our project with UNICEF to create a protective environment for adolescent girls on tea estates in Assam.
Facilitating access to protection and health services for women and children in Assam, India
As part of Sourced with Care, Twinings works in partnership with Unicef in the state of Assam in North East India, to improve the lives of people in tea communities. Since 2010, our partnership has already reached over 34,000 adolescent girls, through nutrition, empowerment and protection interventions. Now, in the third phase of the partnership, Twinings and Unicef aim to improve the lives of the most vulnerable women, children and girls and boys living in 63 tea gardens in Assam, which have a total population of 350,000.
Girls like Minakshi are often vulnerable to a range of child protection concerns, including trafficking and early marriage, and suffer from anaemia, which in turn leads to high maternal mortality, under-nutrition and low learning levels.
So far, Unicef and Twinings have helped to:
- Create safe, protective environments for 9,080 young girls through establishing 134 Adolescent Girls’ Groups (AGGs) to meet, learn about and discuss sensitive topics, who will in turn support and play a key role within the wider community by empowering others.
- Prevent 17 cases of child marriage; 736 AGG members above the age of 18 are unmarried and regularly attend school in the project area.
- Support the re-enrolment of 341 children into school.
- Establish 63 Child Protection Committees (CPCs); as a result, 82 cases of abuse have been addressed by Community Mobilizers of the CPCs.
- Reduce anaemia by 14% through the weekly supervised administration of Iron Folic Acid (IFA) supplements. 8,045 adolescent girls now regularly consume IFA tablets and as a result have more energy and a better attention span.
- Establish 150 kitchen gardens and health food shops to promote food diversity and encourage healthy food choices.
It was a Community Mobilizer that stepped in to help Minakshi and convinced her parents to let her leave domestic servitude and return to school. Minakshi went on to join the local AGG so that not only does she receive ongoing support, but can also help other girls in a similar situation.
The third phase will build on our success over the past eight years and see a scaling up of activities, with the aim of promoting a protective environment in which girls and boys are encouraged to stay in school and ensuring women and children have access to quality health services and social protection schemes.
An increased focus will be on improving maternal health, as Assam has the second highest rate of maternal mortality in India. We will be funding improvements in better access to healthcare services, building the capacity of healthcare workers, and facilitating awareness-raising in communities.
We will continue to support Unicef work with local and national government to help influence and support policy reform and ensure that any government health or protection initiatives are reaching the tea estate communities.
Young girls like Minakshi now have a chance to have the education and childhood they deserve. Phase III will reach even more women, children and adolescents across tea gardens in Assam.