Manshiedh (3 years old) gets into a pyjama shirt for his afternoon nap. Like nursery schools throughout the world, the children at the Malayalam estate are no different.
Visinanathan, a leaf loader, collects the freshly plucked tea leaves twice a day transporting them to the main estate factory for processing.
Women’s rights are a contentious issue around the world as they are in India today, where recently the issue has been highlighted. Alexander Walker documented one of the traditional Indian industries in one of the south-western states.
The tea industry in India is heavily dominated by a female workforce but in the state of Kerala, which has been vigorously promoting the rights of women for many years, it has led to unexpected problems for the industry.
For decades the state had its politics rooted in socialism, having become the first state in the world to democratically elect a communist government in 1957. In relation to its population, this has meant they have reaped huge benefits in terms of welfare, education levels and high quality of life. For women this has meant the realisation of parity in education and wages.
However, today’s high levels of education for both men and women, means a mismatch between labour supply and demand. Young educated women no longer wish to be employed in the physically demanding and lowly paid jobs offered by the tea industry.
Herein lies the challenge faced by the tea estates in Kerala. The group of women workers currently employed may be the last of their generation from Chundale village to do this work as if these positions cannot be filled from inside the community, the company will be forced to use migrant workers from other states or turn to mechanisation.
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