March, 2024

Facilitating an informed future for families

Zera, 39, is a mother of three who has worked as a tea picker for the past 18 years. Balancing motherhood and her job is a constant preoccupation for Zera, and this is no more apparent than in her commute to the tea buying centres.

Zera describes the arduous journeying to the tea buying centres, of walking in the rain and the lack of consideration for childcare.

“You cannot leave your child, so you carry the basket on your back and the baby at the front. It can be 4km one way.”

And pregnancy itself elicits no change in routine: “Most of us still pick tea during our pregnancies because we have no other option. We sleep on the tea bushes to rest.” Sometimes, Zera’s 21-month-old [child] gets sick from exposure to the cold climate.

Zera believes there is one clear causation for her struggles; “In my opinion the source of everything is the low wage.” Most of her community survive by taking on casual jobs like washing clothes, but money is still hand to mouth.

“We buy enough food for a week. […] If you don’t have you borrow and pay [it] back once you have been paid. That’s how we live, through borrowing and paying back.”

The training made available through the Empowering Tea Communities programme has showed Zera what’s possible through learning her rights and about other income opportunities.

“We didn’t know we had any rights as tea workers, but we were taught about them, and I was happy.”