GUWAHATI, Aug 3 - The Assam Branch Indian Tea Association (ABITA) and UNICEF in collaboration have succeeded in ushering in discernible changes in the way of living of the tea garden workers, particularly in bringing down incidents of child marriage.
ABITA secretary Sandip Ghosh, while sharing the results of the project with mediapersons here today, said that this collaboration has brought about significant changes in the lives of the tea garden workers, through implementation of various social welfare programmes aimed at better health and nutrition and community development, in upper Assam.
Ghosh revealed that tea gardens under ABITA located in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar had recorded 605 child marriages in 2005. �But now the incidence of child marriage has come down with the intervention of this project. In 2015, these gardens recorded 128 child marriages,� said Ghosh, adding that a host of factors are behind the custom of child marriage amongst the tea garden communities.
According to Ghosh, increased awareness level with formation of girls� clubs under the project has significantly contributed towards bringing down the number of child marriages.
The tea communities constitute 17 per cent of the population and tea estates constitute 24 per cent of Assam�s land area, according to ABITA. Child marriage amongst the tea garden communities had not only raised a social problem but also had been exposing the young girls to a lot of health hazards, with anaemia topping the list.
�In collaboration with UNICEF we have been implementing its child protection and nutrition programmes since 2007. Last year, the coverage extended to as many as 116 member tea estates in the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar,� said Ghosh, adding that, to address the issue of anaemia, iron and folic acid supplements are administered to the adolescent girls.
�It is important to improve the nutrition and health status of adolescent girls in tea estates and with a view to reducing the prevalence of anaemia in adolescent girls and women, we have focused on addressing the underlying factors responsible for their poor nutrition status, complemented by improved life skills education,� said Ghosh.
The ABITA office-bearer asserted that this partnership with UNICEF has led to significant changes in the nutritional status of adolescent girls in the tea garden areas through strengthening of the service delivery mechanism.
Ghosh further said that this model would be expanded to all the gardens under ABITA. At present 247 tea gardens are under ABITA and this project is covering 116 gardens in Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar.