On Monday 19 February at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo, Save the Children in partnership with Kelani Valley Plantations and Talawakelle Tea Estates launched a “Child Protection Policy” specifically tailored to the needs of children living on Sri Lanka’s tea estates.  The development of a voluntary Child Protection Policy by tea companies together with Save the Children is a first for Sri Lanka. 

Part of the “Mother and Child Friendly Tea Plantations” project funded by Save the Children Hong Kong, the launch of the “Child Protection Policy” is a unique initiative that will help raise the bar for child protection standards on tea estates across Sri Lanka and hopefully around the world. The Child Protection Policy launch was the culmination of over two years of partnership between Save the Children, Talawakelle Tea Estates and Kelani Valley Plantations for child focused research, development and piloting on tea estates in Nuwara Eliya District.

The Child Protection Policy is a voluntary undertaking through which participating tea companies commit to ensuring that all children living in their estates are protected from all forms of harm, violence, abuse and exploitation. It establishes a set of principles, standards and implementation mechanisms through which tea companies, their management and staff take active measures to help ensure the safety and protection of the children on their estates. 

The policy consolidates existing domestic and international legislation, guidance and norms on child protection and provides tea companies with a free, easy to establish and highly effective way of strengthening child protection mechanisms in the estate sector. It is designed to be extremely compatible with existing management and community structures on the estates and easily complements the tea company’s existing corporate social responsibility programmes.

In her speech on the importance of this event, Mrs. Chandrani Senaratna, Secretary of Ministry of Women and Child Affairs commented that she saw the occasion “as a landmark for both child protection and the plantation sector.” She went on to note that the launch of the Child Protection Policy was “a good indication that the corporate sector is stepping up to become more child sensitive in their operations” and that she believed it  “would create consensus and clarify responsibilities … in ensuring the protection of children” in the plantation sector.

Not only is the Child Protection Policy good news for children and their families it also makes sound business sense. With global consumers increasingly interested in making ethical choices in their purchases, the prospect of Pure Ceylon tea products sourced from the world’s first Mother and Child Friendly Tea Plantations is a compelling attraction.

The launch was attended by the officials of the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Central Province and Nuwara Eliya District representatives, the Planters Association, Plantation Human Development Trust, Plantation companies, UNICEF and other NGOs. It included speeches by Mr. Julian Chellappah, Acting Country Director of Save the Children, Mr. Roshan Rajadurai, Managing Director of Kelani Valley Plantations and Talawakelle Tea Estates PLC, Mrs. Chandrani Senaratna, Secretary of Ministry of Women and Child Affairs, Mr. Lal Perera, Director General of Plantation Human Development Trust. The launch also included an informative and engaging panel discussion on tea plantation sector child protection needs and policy approaches by Dr. Charika Marasinghe, Mr. Uchita de Zoysa, Mr. Ramiz Behbudov and Mr. Roshan Rajadurai.

Save the Children hopes that the launch will generate wider interest amongst Sri Lanka’s other tea companies. A number have already come forward and expressed their interest in adopting the policy. Save the Children is committed to working closely with any interested tea companies in helping them develop the necessary systems and structures.

The pioneering efforts of developing this policy in Sri Lanka have the potential to make a further impact on child protections standards for tea companies around the world. Already Save the Children is reaching out to other tea producing countries where the organisation also has a presence and is approaching existing ethical labels to explore the possible integration of the Child Protection Policy into their certification models.