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Tea garden women still an underprivileged lot

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 7 � For scores of women in Assam, Women�s Day would have little or no relevance. With scant opportunities available for their uplift, women workers in the tea estates of the State would find no respite from their routine of toil and tears. More than half a century after the country�s independence, health and educational opportunities for them are among the most basic, and other forms of social support either absent or inadequate.

In most tea estates of the State, according to health officials, there exist serious issues about the state of women�s health. Many of them suffer from a range of diseases like anaemia, allergy, gastro intestinal disorders, and under- nourishment continues to be a norm.

Doctors say that with early marriage widely prevalent in most tea estates, young women find themselves in an

unenviable position. The fact that multiple child birth is a common feature to tea tribe women only adds to their difficulties.

The absence of proper healthcare in most tea gardens is a hurdle that is yet to be surmounted. Although some tea majors have established well equipped hospitals, there are hundreds of tea estates without necessary health support in the form of infrastructure and doctors. For the women of such estates, there is little recourse to healthcare as they cannot afford private medical intervention, which may be available outside the estates.

Pallab Lochan Das, of the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association, pointed out that healthcare was one area that had not been taken seriously by the authorities concerned to the extent they should have. Consequently, women in tea gardens were among the worst sufferers.

Of late the National Rural Health Mission has forged ties with some tea estates to augment the available healthcare facilities. But the net has not spread to cover many tea estates where healthcare support is nil, a fact that even NRHM personnel acknowledge.

Those well acquainted with the situation say that lack of awareness among the women created by scarce educational opportunities is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

Surprisingly, even after intervention from the Sarva Siksha Abhijan Mission, the girl child in tea estates still gets a raw deal. Right from the time she steps into the school, the girl child also has to take part in running the household with little time to enjoy childhood. Later, as the family grows, and with her mother at work she would take care of younger siblings, and thus find no time for studies.

Lily Karmakar of the Assam Tea Tribes Women�s Organisation revealed that women being able to pursue higher studies is a rarity in tea estates. �Till today, we have only three women graduates from our area, the Bolai Tea Estate, where there are around 600 women in all,� she noted.

When contacted, the Chairperson of the Assam State Commission for Women, Mridula Saharia, stated that although some interventions had taken place for the benefit of women tea estate workers, there was more scope for their advancement. She added that along with progress in other fields, there was a need for raising the political awareness of the women workers.

She was of the belief that not just the government, and tea estate managements, civil society groups such as NGOs had a clear role in empowering the women of the tea tribes community.

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Tea garden women still an underprivileged lot

GUWAHATI, March 7 � For scores of women in Assam, Women�s Day would have little or no relevance. With scant opportunities available for their uplift, women workers in the tea estates of the State would find no respite from their routine of toil and tears. More than half a century after the country�s independence, health and educational opportunities for them are among the most basic, and other forms of social support either absent or inadequate.

In most tea estates of the State, according to health officials, there exist serious issues about the state of women�s health. Many of them suffer from a range of diseases like anaemia, allergy, gastro intestinal disorders, and under- nourishment continues to be a norm.

Doctors say that with early marriage widely prevalent in most tea estates, young women find themselves in an

unenviable position. The fact that multiple child birth is a common feature to tea tribe women only adds to their difficulties.

The absence of proper healthcare in most tea gardens is a hurdle that is yet to be surmounted. Although some tea majors have established well equipped hospitals, there are hundreds of tea estates without necessary health support in the form of infrastructure and doctors. For the women of such estates, there is little recourse to healthcare as they cannot afford private medical intervention, which may be available outside the estates.

Pallab Lochan Das, of the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association, pointed out that healthcare was one area that had not been taken seriously by the authorities concerned to the extent they should have. Consequently, women in tea gardens were among the worst sufferers.

Of late the National Rural Health Mission has forged ties with some tea estates to augment the available healthcare facilities. But the net has not spread to cover many tea estates where healthcare support is nil, a fact that even NRHM personnel acknowledge.

Those well acquainted with the situation say that lack of awareness among the women created by scarce educational opportunities is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

Surprisingly, even after intervention from the Sarva Siksha Abhijan Mission, the girl child in tea estates still gets a raw deal. Right from the time she steps into the school, the girl child also has to take part in running the household with little time to enjoy childhood. Later, as the family grows, and with her mother at work she would take care of younger siblings, and thus find no time for studies.

Lily Karmakar of the Assam Tea Tribes Women�s Organisation revealed that women being able to pursue higher studies is a rarity in tea estates. �Till today, we have only three women graduates from our area, the Bolai Tea Estate, where there are around 600 women in all,� she noted.

When contacted, the Chairperson of the Assam State Commission for Women, Mridula Saharia, stated that although some interventions had taken place for the benefit of women tea estate workers, there was more scope for their advancement. She added that along with progress in other fields, there was a need for raising the political awareness of the women workers.

She was of the belief that not just the government, and tea estate managements, civil society groups such as NGOs had a clear role in empowering the women of the tea tribes community.