When we started Tea Leaf Trust, our focus was on improving education and employment opportunities, so that the children of this community had a choice about how to support themselves and their families.
However, 8 years on we are acutely aware that not only does the lack of quality education keep these young people down, but their living conditions, health issues, their emotional states as a result of gender inequality, substance abuse and poverty, all feed into their ability to feel that they are valued members of Sri Lankan society with much to contribute.
Here is a little overview of issues surrounding education and employment. Over the coming months we will enhance this section with the most up-to-date information on the social raft of issues that play a strong role in keeping these communities despondent, dependent and down.
Young people from the tea estates lack opportunities, particularly around education and employment.
Private tea companies have established systems that ignore basic human rights and take advantage of an intrinsic lack of education to cultivate a dependent workforce. This has resulted in complex multi-layered social problems including high rates of alcoholism and domestic violence.
With a lack of both formal and informal support systems for youth, the incidence of deliberate self-harm and suicide is high.
Young people from the estates are often discriminated against when seeking employment as they are seen as inferior and incapable.
Poverty causes estate youth to drop out of school in order to support family incomes. Tea pickers are expected to pick 18 kilos of tea leaves a day, an impossible task, to earn just Rs 600 /- (£3) at best, often this is cut by 50%.
Young adults therefore remain trapped within the tea estate system, or take exploitative and dangerous work as domestic servants or manual labourers in urban centres.
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