THE TEA GARDENS OF BANGLADESH
The tea garden population of Bangladesh is made up of some of the most deprived people in the world - socially and politically. Their extreme poverty keeps them in a social cycle of deprivation and exclusion, marginalised from Bangladesh life.
Wages are under or around £1 a day, healthcare is virtually non-existent and education scant and poor quality. They don't have a political or legal voice, as any unions are silenced by corruption. Workers are trapped deeply in a way that leaves them dependant on the tea garden companies for food, medicine accommodation and education.
These are a people who work hard six days a week, with women being the main tea pickers (60%) working through the whole of pregnancy and returning 42 hours after giving birth. After four or more children the women are worn out with premature ageing.
Children who get schooling often leave by the age of 10 to look after younger siblings or to work themselves to help feed the family.
There are over 160 tea plantations in Bangladesh all having their own village community who barely venture out of the confines of the plantation. For four generations now, they have been captive labourers, not progressing in any direction out of the tea garden.
Our work in the tea gardens has been inspired by many visits, exposure to the need and a deep compassion to give these people help and awareness where needed. We want to be a link to healthcare as soon as the need arises, especially in the area of child/adult blindness.
Some 60% of the tea garden children have stunted growth and the majority of the women are malnourished or have wasting disease. The diet of these people is mainly rice and the intake of vitamins and protein is badly lacking, hence the high percentage of malnutrition and disease.
Children of the Tea Gardens
The childhood mortality in Bangladesh is 48 out of 1,000 births, but for the Tea Garden people it's even higher as a mother's diet is not able to sustain a pregnancy. Sadly, the diet of extreme poverty is mainly rice. Many children die in the first year of life. 50% of children are anaemic and 83% of a child's diet is rice, so vital vitamins are lacking from most family meals which can lead to one of the causes of blindness - the lack of Vitamin A.
A Tea Garden child has a childhood of illness, malnutrition and stunted growth. Education is scant as 50% of Tea Gardens do not have schools, and the present education is of rudimentary content. By the age of 10 most children are already working to help the family income. Sometimes a child will drop out of school very early to help an anaemic mother who cant manage her required 23kgs of picked tea leaves a day in order to receive her full wages.
The Tea Garden children follow the pattern of their parents in keeping their voices down and staying content with the meagre amenities of life. Like their parents they remain chained to the Tea Gardens for their work, home and future and continue even in 2021 to be marginalised by main stream society.
Project Tea Garden
In 2019 we funded Mamony, a lovely tea garden girl, to be our worker. Trained by Moulvibazar hospital, she lives in the area and goes door-to-door, teaching awareness of vitamin intake, sanitation and nutrition, as well as vision-testing the children.
Mamony is one of the few tea garden children who has received an education and wants to help her own people. She has been working with us since January 2020 and reports back to us if any child or adult is losing sight. With our connections to Moulvibazar Eye Hospital, we then facilitate and fund appropriate treatment.
Our aim is prevent the loss of sight, especially in a child, before it is too late for treatment. We will also assess the ongoing need as we work.
2021 saw a further development in Project Tea Garden. The charity have now trained two more Tea Garden girls in health, nutrition, sanitation and childhood diseases. These Healthcare Workers are now walking the Tea Gardens talking to the mothers on a one-to-one or group basis, educating them on health matters. This is the first introduction for the Tea Gardens, on the vital importance of nutrition for their children and in pregnancy and how to prioritise their tiny income with better food for their families. The mothers are also helped with the knowledge of children's diseases especially in the under 5's and the importance of vaccination in childhood. While the Healthcare Workers are with the mothers they also ask whether there is any eyesight problems in any of their children or family. The mothers are told who to contact should any of their children start to loose their sight from developing cataracts or the need for glasses.
As trustees of this charity we see it of vital importance that we educate this generation on nutrition and healthcare and where to access help so their children are not left in the same ignorance and helpless situation that currently prevails. We aim to see a next generation where avoidable blindness is eliminated and the importance of health and nutrition for the growing child is ingrained into society. We want to help the mothers especially, to take responsibility (as far as they are able) for the health of their families.
Since 2019 we have enabled hundreds of adults/children to have their eyes screened, and over 300 have received sight saving surgery/glasses or medicine. This is a vital professional service which would not have been accessible to them normally, plus it involves funding beyond any Tea Garden worker or parent's affording.
For more information on our Project Tea Garden Fundraiser please visit our News & Updates page.