Tea Worker


A tea worker bringing her full basket to the plantation house to be weighed at the end of a day’s work. Tea plantation workers in Sri Lanka are almost all Tamil women. “Plantation” is a particularly appropriate term: they earn about $7 per day of hard physical labor, live in tiny rural houses, often without utilities, experience high levels of alcoholism and domestic abuse, and have very few ways to improve their economic or social station. We stayed with a family that runs a school to teach English to Tamil families for free; the idea is that, with English, they can move to the city and have some sort of transferable skill to offer employers. However, tea plantation owners are trying to shut them down. The owners realize that their entire business model depends on a low-wage labor pool, which means keeping future generations ignorant, unskilled, and bound to their villages. Thus, they oppose any attempts to improve the economic and social position of their workers. 

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