The invisible or little-known tea communities and ethnic groups believe that the media can play a significant role in bringing these communities to the light through writing good reports and other productions on them.
To scale up the media attention to these communities the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) brought together a cohort of journalists, researchers and activists in a residential workshop in Srimangal, Moulvibazar, from 17-20 October 2014. Twenty-six participants including 17 journalists from Northwest, North-center, Northeast and Chittagong regions of Bangladesh, attended the workshop titled, “In-depth reporting on tea plantation workers and little-known ethnic communities of Bangladesh”.
The prime objective of the workshop aimed at scaling up the understanding of the journalists about these communities and having them engaged in in-depth reporting on their rights and social justice issues.
Bangladesh can and should take pride in its diverse adivasi indigenous and ethnic communities. But the state that recently reverted to “Bengali” nationalism shows its inhuman attitude towards these communities in awarding them the identities and political protection they deserve. The people of the majority Bengali also appear to be DIKU (in Santali language it means tormentors or wrongdoers) to them. The speakers observed this in a dialogue on rethinking map, identity, and rights of little-known ethnic communities of Bangladesh.
The Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD), North-Bengal based organization of the ethnic communities, Jatiyo Adivasi Parishad and Gram Bikash Kendra (GBK) organized the dialogue in Dinajpur on 19 April. The dialogue was organized as part of a project, “Mapping and capacity building of tea plantation workers and little-known ethnic communities” funded by European Union and ICCO Cooperation. Moderated by Philip Gain, the dialogue was attended by representatives of some 35 ethnic communities who included rights workers, community leaders, civil society organizations, government agencies, and journalists among others.
There are numerous non-government and religious organizations active among the adivasis, little-known ethnic communities and tea workers. These communities also have their organizations promoting social, cultural and political rights. However, the difficulties these communities face are insurmountable. Most of these organizations have no registration, lack financial capability and work with no paid staff or depend only on volunteers.
It is in this context that the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) and Gram Bikash Kendra (GBK) organized a residential workshop from 16-19 April 2015 in Parbatipur in Dinajpur. The key objective was to strengthen the scopes and capacity of the rights-based organizations dealing with ethnic, marginalized and excluded communities.
The workshop is part of the project, ‘Mapping and capacity building of tea plantation workers and little-known ethnic communities of Bangladesh’.
Twenty-two executives and staff, including five women, attended the workshop. They represented 16 organizations of the adivasis, tea communities and tea workers.
The tea industry is such an industry where the workers can unionize only at the national level. And labour law makes it obligatory that at least 30 per cent of total work force must join a union as members. There is no precedence that a tea worker gets an appointment letter. After retirement, a tea worker silently surrenders his/her gratuity in exchange for holding the residence that s/he was offered. Unlike other industrial workers, the tea workers get no casual leave. They have lived with many such malpractices and injustice for generations.
These and different other relevant issues regarding trade union were discussed by resource persons and participants at a workshop organized to develop the skills and capabilities of trade union leaders and activists in the tea industry. The Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD) organized the residential workshop from 11 to 14 December 2014 in Kamalganj of Moulvibazar district. Twenty-nine participants included leaders of the central committee of Bangladesh Cha Sramik Union (BCSU), its panchayet level leaders, some leaders from the national trade union, and one leader from Bangladesh Tea Estate Staff Association. Trade union leaders, researchers and organizers who work on labour issues, and SEHD staff were the trainers at the workshop. The participants represented all the valleys and districts where tea is produced.
“The labour law itself is at the roots of deprivations of tea workers,” said Ram Bhajan Kairi, in a residential workshop organized by the Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD). The four-day training workshop titled, “Rethinking Rights of Tea Workers” was held in Komolganj, Moulvibazar from 8 to 11 February 2014. Thirty-five participants, most of them youths from the tea workers’ communities, joined the workshop. Thirteen ethnic communities were represented at the workshop.
The prime objective of the program was to enhance participants’ capacity to write reports and take part in research on issues regarding tea workers and their communities.
Kairi, a labour leader and a staff of SEHD said, according to the law, workers of all industries are entitled to 10 days of casual leave, which is not applicable to tea workers. Besides, tea workers enjoy one day of annual leave for every 22 days of work while workers of other industries get one day leave against every 18 days work.