Payment in Rupees or Flour?
Employment / Work Place Culture / Social Enterprise
Whether its the group of older women waiting in the same spot in town for daily adhoc cultivation work or the 19year old supermarket security guard who takes my hand and chats each time I buy groceries, its difficult to resist offering jobs on a daily basis. I know that for AMMA to have long term sustainable impact we need to grow steadily ensuring that we have enough work for our current employees of which their are three + a manager + two on maternity leave + me (founder, Josie.)
Its important to me that AMMA develops a culture of respect, equality and empowerment amongst our team. This means challenging some cultural tendencies like gossipy chit chat and social standing (example: we now have both an indoor and outdoor toilet in our new workshop and I had to make the point that everyone is allowed to use the indoor one.) My longing for AMMA is that we will be able to provide jobs to many women who live on Sri Lanka's tea estates, and in addition to this provide life skills classes tackling some of the social issues prevalent in the area. We are developing the curriculum in partnership with Tea Leaf Trust (www.tealeaftrust.com) who have seen their 12 step emotional health program result in a dramatic drop in self harm and suicide amongst their alumni.
This week both of our pregnant mothers are due to give birth. We were informed that one of them was in hospital with some minor complications so over tea break we decided to finish work an hour early and visit her in hospital. The following day two of our mothers returned to the hospital to see how she was doing. I found this so encouraging, that the friendship they had built working at AMMA and walking to work everyday together has resulted in the support they were giving to each other. I feel really proud that these young women (23-26years) work at AMMA.
AMMA is a social enterprise which means we operate as a for profit business but one which exists for the benefit of society and the environment. Once we start to turn a fair profit we will reinvest that back into the local community. Its a tension knowing when to react in times of need like in a recent situation where one of our mothers' kitchen roof collapsed and when to step back and focus on providing a fair wage, supportive community and good working conditions. In this case we decided to act, and with the help from people in both Sri Lanka and abroad we raised Rs 80,000 (£400) to fix her roof and build a washroom.
Living in the rural highlands is teaching me each day about the realities and complexities of daily life living on Sri Lanka's tea estates. Truths which I never would have discovered operating from a distance. For example, hearing this week that tea estate workers have been paid this month in flour and tea powder, as they had an advance payment over the New Year. Maybe the tea management need some life skills classes too, they are always welcome to join.