Gender Programme

Gender programme in tea plantations of Assam

SEWA through gender initiative facilitate to ensure that women can act on choices they make and are better protected from harassment. With the support of BSR USA, the HERrespect programme and WOW are implemented in Assam tea plantations, cultivating more equitable relationships and attitudes among women and men in the Assam tea industry, which ultimately helps prevent violence in the workplace and in intimate relationships. The programme also develops positive working relationships, and empowered workers will contribute to higher productivity and sustainable supply chains.

The initiative of SEWA on tea plantations strengthens the ability of tea estate management to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence and harassment. India produces 23 percent of global tea, and Assam produces 50 percent of India’s total tea. Assam produces nearly 11.5 percent of global tea, and nearly 70% of Assam’s tea workers are women, who are mainly involved in the plucking of tea leaves.

This workplace based program in tea estates has four major components:-

The SEWA gender team provides training to male workers , female workers, and Supervisors as Changemakers. These trained workers and supervisors conduct outreach in the workplace and within the community.

The SEWA gender team provides support to tea estate management to improve workplace policies and systems to prevent and address gender-based violence (GBV). Guidance is provided on how to communicate policies to staff and workers. Assist tea estate management in maintaining compliance as per the Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal ) Act, 2013 and assist in developing a grievance redressal mechanism. Workers, managers, and members of the Interneal committees in the tea estates received training on gender-based violence topics and were trained in counselling skills. They were accountable for sharing learnings with other co-workers, within their families, and within their communities, and served as the main point of contact when workers wanted to seek advice related to these topics.

About HERrespect

HERproject drives impact for women and business via workplace-based interventions on health, financial inclusion, and gender equality. Under HERproject the HERrespect cultivates more equitable relationships and attitudes among women and men in the tea estates of Assam, which ultimately helps in preventing violence in the workplace and in intimate relationships.

SEWA provides guidance and support on the creation and implementation of a workplace policy on gender equality and harassment in the tea estates of Assam. SEWA also develops, reviews, implements, and communicates workplace policies and mechanisms to promote positive gender relations in the intervening tea estates of Assam, including the prevention and redressal of harassment as mandated by law under the PoSH Act (Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal  Act, 2013)

 Under the Her Respect program, SEWA provides training to both the management team and tea estate workers, with the interactive training curriculum for the management team focusing on reflection, system review, and capacity building.

  • Gender sensitive management systems
  • Labour law compliances and promoting safe work environment
  • Workplace policy Review
  • Strengthening PoSH
  • grievance mechanisms
  • Capacity building of Internal Committee (IC)
  • Sustainability approaches

The interactive training curriculum for workers focuses on reflection and role-playing. It was developed based on established programs such as Stepping Stones and has been evaluated by subject and industry experts.

  • Building basic skills e.g. active listening, body language
  • Styles of communication
  • Understanding gender relations and relationships
  • Violence and relationships (at home and at work)
  • Skills-building to reduce violence and build positive relations
  • Barefoot counselling and support systems

Tea estate wise wide awareness campaigns are organized by the SEWA with the support of trained workers and the management team. The awareness activities were focused on promoting positive gender relations.

Mental Health intervention

A mental health and psychosocial support component was merged with the programme to facilitate holistic social change for women. The aim of this component of the programme is to build primary level psychosocial and trauma support mechanisms for survivors of gender-based violence. This has been designed based on insights from The Listeners Collective’s barefoot counselling program, to bring in elements of community and peer counselling and trauma-informed support. The trained workers who are now working at the community level as changemakers were equipped with a foundational understanding of mental health and trauma emerging from gender-based violence in tea estates of Assam. They were also equipped with the required skills to offer psychological first-aid to community members and colleagues experiencing GBV.

About WOW

In 2020, Twinings and the UK government’s Work and Opportunities for Women (WOW) Programme partnered to improve conditions for 15,000 female workers in tea plantations in India by supporting women’s rights and empowerment.

BSR and SEWA collaborated to implement the project in fifteen tea estates of Assam. Tea estates of Goodricke Group Ltd, Mcleod Russel India Ltd, Jorehaut Tea Company Ltd, Andrew Yule and Company Limited, and Luxmi Tea Company Private Limited were covered.

The WOW programme’s objectives were to:

  • Ensure that women can act on the choices they make and are better protected from harassment.
  • Strengthen the ability of tea estate management to prevent and respond to cases of gender-based violence and harassment.
  • Provide direct support for women workers by promoting gender equitable attitudes and relationships among workers and management.
  • The project also improves the visibility of women in the tea supply chain by carrying out assessments into the status and position of women and any related data gaps.

SEWA provided an in-depth training to workers, managers, and worker committees. The programme helps to strengthen the ability of the management of fifteen tea  estates to prevent and respond to harassment and gender-based violence and supports worker committees to prevent and respond to harassment. And build their capacity to support workers.


Ms. Merry Nag Change maker of Nonaipara Tea Estate

Ms. Merry Nag is a permanent worker of Nonaipara tea estate. She was nominated by the estate management to participate in the HERrespect trainings. She is also engaged as a member of the Village Defense Committee (VDC), attached to the local police station. In her work as a VDC member, Ms. Nag provides assistance to women survivors of violence and abuse. After attending a few training, she shared her reflections:

“Special skill sets are required to work with the victims of gender based violence, but we are not trained for it. Up until now, my approach to case work was all wrong. I realized the mistakes I made while handling sensitive cases and how it could have impacted the victims instead of providing them with support. In my option, the qualities of a change maker like having a non-judgemental attitude, maintaining confidentiality and positive reinforcements are very crucial to our work.”

Ms. Nag now goes on follow-up visits to the women survivors of violence and applies basic counselling skills to provide psycho-social support to the survivors within her community.

Change maker collective effort in Dekorai Tea Estate

The change makers of Dekorai tea estate are dedicatedly conducting outreach activities within their community. While interacting with the people residing in different residential worker lines, the change makers heard from many women residents that their husbands are addicted to alcohol, which is badly impacting their family life. The women are finding it extremely burdensome to single-handedly manage their household expenses as the husbands are mostly absent from work and many of them don’t take any financial responsibility of the children. As a result, many families in the community are economically distressed.

Among the 40 change makers selected for HERrespect at Dekorai (20 female and 20 male change makers), Ms. Lalita Tanti, Ms. Sulena Rajput, Ms. Priyam Tossa, Ms. Hemanti Tossa from the female change maker group and Mr. Sumit Nayak, Mr. Poresh Bawri and a few others from the male change-maker group decided to join hands to address the issue of alcoholism within the plantation.

A few change makers shared “A few days back we had organised a meeting for the Dekorai tea estate change makers. Since we all reside in different divisions and residential lines within the plantation, so decided to take equal responsibility in addressing the issue of alcoholism within our community. We divided ourselves into subgroups to visit different spots where alcohol is sold and reaching out to the sellers to stop sale of alcohol during day time/ working hours. We are also sending out a strong message within the community that strict actions will be sanctioned against people who are found drunk during the daytime. We have also reached out to our garden management to support our efforts and have decided to set a time limit to restrict alcohol consumption. Going  forward, consumption of alcohol will only be allowed between 6-8pm. We have also reached out to our local police station and invited the superintendent of police for a community sensitisation event where he will speak on preventing crimes against women and illegal sale of alcohol. We are adamant to make our community a better place for our women and families”

Ms Juthila Karmakar Change maker of Khowang Tea Estate

Ms Juthila Karmakar is 55 years old and she is working as a Sardarni (female supervisor) at Khowang tea estate in Assam. She was selected as a change maker to participate in the HERrespect project. After attending the first few sessions, Ms Karmakar and her fellow change makers initiated outreach activities to sensitise their community on gender aspects. Ms Karmakar shared ” Since I work as a Sardarni, it was brought to my attention that one of the workers was physically violent towards his elderly mother. His sister is married and lives in another plantation. She was also beaten up by him when she came to visit their mother. After investigating around, we got his address and along with the other change makers, I decided to visit his family. We were having a conversation with his mother outside their house when he returned home. Upon seeing us, he got aggressive and started shouting and verbally abusing us. Our group’s first instinct was to leave immediately, but then we discussed among ourselves and I decided to approach him to understand his side of the story. I also convinced our group that as change makers, we must try to get both sides to voice their concerns. Thereafter, I went to talk with him while the group stayed with his mother. Usually there is a tendency to want to accuse someone who is physcially violent with another person, but I decided to take a non-judgemental approach and spoke to him with care and tenderness. After half an hour, he calmed down and opened up to share his concerns. He was upset with his mother for giving a portion of her retirement money to his married sister. As per him, the sister should not be entitled to their mother’s assets as she is married and her husband is also earning. So we got him to sit and talk with his mother to share his concerns, but also suggesting him to hear her out. The mother shared that when his sister got married, she was not in a position to provide any financial support to her daughter. Now that she has her retirement money, the mother wanted to distribute it between both her two children. This conversation between the mother and son helped to clear the air between them. So far, we haven’t heard about him mistreating his mother again.”

Mr Pradeep Tanti, worker, Orangajuli Tea Estate

At work, I face stressful situations that impact my behavior at home. One day I was really angry, and I shouted at my wife and children. In the meantime, I got an opportunity to attend the HERrespect training sessions which helped me to reflected on my behavior. I learned about respecting family members, the importance of good communication, and using the “I” statement. It made me acknowledge my mistakes. I decided to apologize to my family. I requested my wife and children to have an evening meal together. I expressed to them that it was wrong of me to shout and shared with them the reason for my frustration.