Madhara Dulanjali is 10 years old and lives on the Frocester Rubber Estate in Horana, which is located in the western province of Sri Lanka. Her great-grandparents worked as rubber tappers at this estate, and her father and mother – Vijararatnam and Kumari – both started working as tappers in 1995.
Madhara and her family are part of the so-called “plantation Tamils,” which is a term for those whose ancestors had been brought to work in Sri Lanka by the British colonial administration more than 100 years ago. For almost a century this meant no citizenship or the right to vote. After some tumultuous times most of the Tamils were granted citizenship at the end of the Twentieth Century. However, socially and economically, they continue to be ignored in their country.
In their little town of Horana, Madhara’s family had been trying to get the State to provide electricity. However, considering their political status, it was unlikely to happen. Furthermore, the cost of the electricity extension is so high, it would never have been supported from public funds. 52 families live in the same town as Madhara and her family, all have been living without electricity.
However, this March, these 52 families no longer had to worry about their kids doing homework in the dark. This plantation works under Fair Deal Trading, a Fair Trade company that produces Autonomie Project’s Ethletic flip flops, rubber boots, and rubber sneakers.
As workers of Fair Trade, they not only receive higher premium wages, but additional profits from the rubber sales are placed in a Fair Trade Premium account that the workers themselves control and vote on how to use the funds. The 52 families knew exactly what to do with the $33,197 in Fair Trade premiums they earned from all the rubber they produced last year: electricity!
As Madhara’s family fought to bring electricity to their town, her parents enrolled her into a school that teaches in Sinhala, the language spoken by the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, in order to have a better chance for the future beyond rubber tapping.
Now with electricity, the children’s school uniforms can be ironed instead of the usual way, which was folding them under their pillow overnight to “press” it. Two other things they welcomed warmly into their towns: refrigerators and television!
Most importantly, Madhara and her classmates are now able to do their homework after dark without ruining their eyes. This allows them to do even better at school, and making it unlikely that she, or her brother and sister, will become the 4th generation of rubber tappers.
GIVEAWAY: Head over to our Facebook to win a pair of the flip flops our Horana rubber tappers produced! Our last Facebook status is a link to our blog. Enter our giveaway by sharing our blog post. Just hit “share” underneath our blog’s link on Facebook! Also, be sure to check the website for a special discount on Fair Trade Flip Flops.