One of Sri Lanka’s major sources of wealth has been its extensive plantation sector. The cultivation of tea, rubber and coconut contributes almost one fifth of the country’s exports, and requires a resident estate labour force of eight hundred thousand Tamils, or 5% of the national population. It is ironic that whilst contributing so substantially to Sri Lanka’s prosperity, the plantation workers specially female workers in fact represent the most disadvantaged social group in the country. They suffer from very low incomes, cramped and unmodernized housing, and poor health care, education and welfare services. Registered workers who pluck tea or weed cinnamon estates earn no more than Rs. 400/- per day, and female workers income given the lack of economic alternatives, is inadequate to raise them above mere subsistence level. Due to the long conflict period of more than 30 years still Sri Lanka remain within the category of vulnerable states, whose economic, social and, above all, political systems and civil society require long term consolidation and stability.
There is a tradition of mutual interdependence between owners and laborers on these plantations. Land owners depend on their mostly female labour force to keep the estate operating. Women workers in turn, unaccustomed to self-management of any sort, depend on the estate owners to meet their basic needs. This includes not only employment, but also housing, emergency credit or welfare benefits. Due to poverty and lack of education the women are living “outside” of the society and their children have no access to proper education and are kept away from basic rights and facilities making it impossible to break out of this cycle of dependence on casual work. The project will strengthen the women and women’s advocacy groups and enable them to become part of the society and measures will be taken to improve the education of the women and their children to develop autonomy in the long run. Thus the above mentioned key problems, dependency and isolation were identified and will be addressed with the action.
As a sustainable approach to address the issues of this voiceless disadvantage plantation workers Nagenahiru implemented several programmes to enhance their capacities to control their own economy which facilitate the mitigation of their socio economic economizililation leading to empower then in their own society. Social mobilization and encouraging them to initiate their alternative income generative action are given priority by Nagenahiru facilitation and encouraging this social group to overcome their issues and enhance the living standards.