What do you consider when you choose your tea bag off the shelf?
What if you knew that choosing a particular tea would result in community education for tea producers around important but sensitive issues such as menstruation, and in the running of workshops to make and promote the use of safe, affordable and reusable sanitary pads? Would you be in?
Tea Promoters India (TPI), Trade Aid’s tea producing partner, created a community welfare initiative back in 1997 called the Tea Action Project, and each year they focus on a project that will empower and develop the tea community. In 2017 they focused on using sustainable and renewable energy in the local communities as well as for their daily operations. In 2018 they wanted to focus on the very challenging and sensitive issue pertaining to menstruation and menstrual hygiene.
A woman spends almost 6-7 years of her life menstruating. In India, only 12-15 percent of women use sanitary pads due to lack of accessibility and affordability of high cost disposable sanitary pads.
Communities living in the remote tea gardens in Darjeeling and North East India suffer from an absence of menstrual hygiene education programs and a significant lack of access to menstrual products. The stigma and shaming of a menstruating woman is highly observed amongst the tea-tribe communities. This age old tradition called Chhaupadi forces women from interacting with family members during menstruation.
In 2018, TPI’s Tea Action Project saw them work with a specialist organisation in India to design and deliver a workshop in all the gardens and small farmer tea projects. The workshops were run with both men and women, aiming to normalize conversations and issues of menstruation. The organisation also helped them set up low cost production units where women can learn how to make reusable cloth pads themselves.