United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has inked a partnership with the National Agricultural Export Board (NAEB) on emphasizing the importance of promoting children’s rights in business practices particularly in tea industry.
During the signing of partnership agreement in Kigali on Tuesday, the two agencies committed to focus on key children priorities such as early childhood development, nutrition and health, among others.
Being under NAEB oversight, tea companies will collaborate to ensure the success of the agreement. Other government institutions including Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Ministry of Public Service and Labour, Ministry of Local Government will also help improve conditions affecting health and nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene practices and practical childcare options in tea growing areas.
Among Rwanda’s 15 tea factories and 19 cooperatives, factory and plantation are often parents or of reproductive age. Some of them are pregnant or breastfeeding women, putting children’s life at risk.
UNICEF’s Country Representative, Ted Maly, said the partnership with the government is paramount in advancing children’s rights and is optimistic on the success of the agreement through good engagement of tea factories.
“Businesses have a wide potential to impact children’s lives, which is why this partnership is so important. There is a growing awareness of corporate responsibility in Rwanda and our work with NAEB will be essential in integrating child rights into the tea industry,” said Maly.
Sandrine Urujeni, Deputy CEO of NAEB, said the initiative that started in tea industry will be expanded to other government and private institutions to ensure the welfare of mothers and children.
“NAEB works hand-in-hand with tea business owners and affiliated employees. One of our major responsibilities is to protect the rights of employees with a focus on children and women by advocating for improved work conditions. This partnership with UNICEF will result in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of tea workers, thus elevating their livelihoods and contribute to the sector’s growth,” she said.
Activities under the agreement will include stakeholder training on children’s rights and business principles, community outreach events and training to strengthen early childhood development and nutrition programmes around tea plantations.
At least 850 children have been set out of tea chores in the last two years and 520 among them have received vocational training in welding, tailoring, carpentry and more professions.