Twelve children from tea estate sector had the opportunity to share their experiences in child-led advocacy and monitoring as well as membership in children’s clubs at Save the Children’s forum on Child Protection in Plantations held in Colombo last month.
The forum, designed to share and demonstrate learning and experience from the sector, ended in a stirring discussion on issues including dropping out of school, corporal punishment and the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse - all of which were identified by the children themselves.
The children were all members of their individual Village Children’s Development Clubs (VCDC) and impressed adult participants with their interventions to mitigate the issues that affected their lives the most.
The forum was organised as part of Save the Children’s Mother and Child-Friendly Plantations programme and promoted 10 Child Rights Business Principals (CRBP) specifically reviewed for the plantation sector. The principals promote the protection and well-being of children of families within the country’s tea supply chain.
Save the Children and UNICEF introduced the CRBPs Global Framework in 2012 following the introduction of UN guiding principles on Business and Human Rights. The UN Principals were a critical global step towards recognizing the role and responsibility of private businesses in ensuring the rights of people in their supply chain and beyond.
Save the Children has been working with Sri Lanka’s plantation sector since 2017 basing its work on the Framework.
Nilmini Herath, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs and Social Security said she thought the workshop was important for all the stakeholders working in the plantation community. She said this allowed them to know how they could coordinate better for effective utilisation of resources and services to ensure the protection and development of the children in the sector.
Save the Children said the CRBPs have so far been voluntarily adopted by five tea plantations - Talawakale, Elpitiya, Horana, Kelani Valley and Bogawanthalawa. The forum shared learnings and advocated further support from both the tea industry and government stakeholders.
Julian Chellappah, National Director, Save the Children, said, “It is important for all key actors and stakeholders to work together to jointly achieve the goal of improving the condition of the tea estate workers, especially women and children.” Save the Children believes that the private sector has an important role to play in sustainable development and achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The Sri Lankan tea industry is leading the way of ensuring the wellbeing of families living and working on estates, especially that of women and children.
Save the Children plans to expand the CRBPs to other sectors including tourism, garments, rubber, paddy, and cinnamon, guiding the private sector towards ethical business practices and a better world for, and with, children. Representatives from the plantation sector, the Government of Sri Lanka, European Union in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Embassy of the United States, the International Organization for Migration, and INGOs including the Centre for Child-Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility, Hong Kong, Save the Children India and Save the Children Denmark took part in the forum.
Save the Children will continue to work in the plantation sector to ensure that every last child is reached.
Save the Children believes every child deserves a future.
In Sri Lanka and around the world, we work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. We deliver lasting results for millions of children, including those hardest to reach. We do whatever it takes for children - every day and in times of crisis - transforming their lives and the future we share.