Many women in India experience violence at home, at work and even in public areas. With the helping hands of U.N. Women, men and women in the rural areas of Assam State in India are working together to address and prevent cases of “violence against women, youth and children.” In January 2017, U.N. Women supported the formation of women’s empowerment groups, called Jugnu Clubs, across tea estates in Assam with the aim of preventing violence against women in Assam. The Jugnu Clubs form part of a broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative in rural Assam.
Violence on Assam’s Tea Estates
About 6 million people in Assam State work in Assam’s “65 tea estates and 100,000 small gardens.” Their work contributes to more than 50% of India’s tea and about 13% of the world’s tea. Women stand as 50% of the labor force at Assam’s tea estate and often work as tea pluckers. These women face violence in all areas of their lives — in the workplace, in the home environment and in public spaces. In fact, in 2015, Assam noted 11,225 cases of abuse against women by their spouses or family members. Alcohol abuse by males played a role in many of these cases of violence.
Creating Safe Work Environments
The Jugnu Clubs “help make agricultural work safe and equal for all women and girls” working as tea pluckers or factory workers on the tea estates. The Jugnu Clubs are especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic as cases of gender-based violence rose across the world due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.
In the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative, “tea estate managers, welfare officers, workers and Jugnu Club members received training [on] India’s Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, women’s rights and the legal obligations around domestic violence and child labor.”
The training sessions utilized user-friendly and relatable education methods. U.N. Women found that 95% of participants did not have knowledge of the existing legislation that protects against gender-based violence and other violations against women. After the training sessions, about 80% of participants said the training gave them a better understanding of the legislation.
The members of the Jugnu Clubs who participated in this training are now aware of all their rights and are more vocal about their needs. As a result of this empowerment, “women have demanded streetlights be placed in dark public areas and safe transport to work, including two buses to ferry women from nearby villages to the tea gardens.” Now, Jugnu Club members even develop recommendations for safeguarding women who work on Assam’s tea plantations.
Under the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative, “raising awareness about how to prevent and respond to violence against women, youth, and children extended beyond the tea estate setting to the wider rural community,” including education facilities. Through mass gender equality campaigns “using community-led performing arts and crafts, such as interactive theatre shows, dance and music,” U.N. Women reached more than 6,000 people living in the community. Furthermore, 371 children took part in anti-violence early intervention initiatives.
In conclusion, the broader U.N. Women prevention of violence initiative and the Jugnu Clubs serve as beacons of hope for women in Assam. As of June 3, 2022, U.N. Women’s prevention of violence initiative in Assam has touched 15,000 lives. The ongoing work of U.N. Women brings hope that violence against women in Assam will reduce.
– Alexis King