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Of women and tea, ceilings and success

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Breaking another ceiling, a woman become manger of a tea garden of Assam, in the last 200 years of tea industry in Assam.

The credit for breaking the traditional male bastion goes to Manju Baruah, who is currently serving as garden manager for Apeejay Tea’s Hilika Tea Estate at Doomdooma in Tinsukia district.
Manju (43), who is married and has a daughter, hails from Nazira in Sivasagar district. She has been part of the team across various management levels in different Apeejay tea gardens since 2000 when she had joined the group as a trainee welfare officer. She was promoted to garden manager and joined Hilika TE in August this year.

“I am happy with my accomplishment and I accept it as a validation of my hard work and competence. Woman at the top is certainly a disruption of traditional management structures in tea gardens but it is a positive and much-needed disruption. Female workers outnumber males in the labour-intensive tea industry and so it is good to have a woman at the top sometimes,” she said.

Terming managerial responsibilities in tea gardens as a big challenge that also involves a lot of tedious outdoor duties, Manju said that her love for the outdoors and adventure since childhood served her in good stead in discharging her responsibilities.

“The management of Apeejay group has also been quite supportive and has helped me grow as a professional,” she added.

Stressing the need for a change in approach to management for making it gender sensitive, Manju said that the important thing was to keep in mind that there was nothing that a woman could not do what a man could do.

“Talent is gender neutral but I feel the approach to management has to change. If motive and ethics are right and you are doing full justice to your job, it does not matter what gender is at the top of the garden management structure. Along with challenges also come advantages and opportunities,” she added.

Manju, who is an MBA, said that her long stint in the tea industry helped her to be sensitive to the needs of society and work for the welfare of the communities. “Job satisfaction means a lot for me and I can say with pride that my job has ensured precisely that,” she said.

What matters right now in these conversations are the efforts that women have undertaken from active facilitation by the Government- goes to say that after all, success is a group effort.

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