Hello everyone, my name is Ujana Minj from Rural Aid NGO work with support from Global Fund for Children is in Alipurduar District, Kalchini block (State of West Bengal, India). We work in the tea gardens on the issue of trafficking and child labour. During our SALT approach, I and my colleague Rati Lama have found that a group of women drive away a suspected trafficker from their tea garden
Bhatkhawa tea garden
Group of women take responsibility of children safety and drive away a suspected trafficker
Background - SALT conversations instills a sense of responsibility
7 SALT visits have been conducted so far in this tea garden.
Ujana says that Rural Aid started with SALT conversations with the Adolescent girls group in May 2022 in Bhatkawa.
This was followed by a SALT conversation with a Mother and her daughter who is an adolescent
Next, was SALT with two ICDS workers who found the meeting very energising and requested if a similar meeting can be done with other ICDS workers
We therefore did a SALT Group meeting with ICDS (Aangwadi) workers – they not only felt motivated and also shared about school drop outs in the tea garden and other challenges, After this SALT meeting,ICDS workers have started sharing more with Rural Aid team and are opening up and are eager toattend our meetings.
We also conducted Parents group SALT conversation. 7 mothers and one youth Hariharan were present in this meeting. We listened to them and appreciated their strengths. The group felt valued and also spoke about trafficking. One of the mothers from indigenous community who was hesitating to go on her to get her children re-enrolled in the school post COVID. She felt that the teacher will not listen to her as she is from indigenous community. She wanted help from Rural Aid. Rati and i encouraged her that she could do it. The meeting gave her courage to approach the teacher on her own. She felt she could do it, she did not have rely on outsiders. The lady was able to go and speak with the teacher and get her children re-enrolled.This has given her a sense of pride and wants to encourage others to do the same.
This incident came to light when we facilitated a meeting of parents of adolescent girls group around 4:30 pm after parents come back from work.About 12 parents were present- 2 fathers and 10 mothers. ICDS workers also joined the meeting. ICDS workers who are opening up now, felt comfortable to share that parents complain that ICDS workers do not provide proper nutrition but the workers are helpless. They do not have a building to provide food. This led to further conversations.
Then one lady got up (Rural Aid team had done SALT with her). She said that we used to think what does it matter who comes to our village. Even if anyone is being taken outside the tea garden by an agent, we did not bother or interfere. People or children who went outside never shared their experience with the residents of tea gardens. But now they have realised that they can do many things themselves and they need to take care of the children in the village.
The lady and two other women informed that recently they noticed anoutsider, a male, had been staying in the tea garden for some days. 2-3 women took courage though were fearing retaliationapproached him. They enquired sternly what was he doing in the tea garden and got to know that he is from Rajasthan. He has no relative in the tea garden. The women said they got worried, if he tried to sway some parents and takeaway children from the tea garden on pretext of work. They asked him to leave the village immediately. The women said that residents of the tea garden should not give accommodation to strangers. They further added that 2-3 people cannot do it alone, the people in the tea garden have to unite and take responsibility for safety of the children.The suggestion was that they should form a women’s group so that we don’t have to take external help or rely on outsiders.
Rati and I asked the women why did they take action. The awareness about unsafe migration had made them aware of trafficking but still they were scared if they try to stop and how will that person react. But now after SALT conversations they have realised their own power and this has boosted their confidence to take action and not remain passive observers.
Thank you, Ujana! I love how your story shows SALT progressing in the tea garden community and in the hearts to bloom in courage to change...