What's wrong with this picture?


October 20, 2010

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    Roger Burks/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Roger Burks/Mercy Corps

I took this photo almost exactly three years ago, while I was on assignment writing about our programs in northeastern India's Assam state. We were driving onto a tea estate near the city of Dibrugarh — the first tea estate I'd visited in Assam — and this was the first thing I saw as we pulled through the guarded gate.

I thought it was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever laid eyes upon: the verdant shades of tea bushes dappled with variations of color that the workers were wearing. The horizontal rows and vertical trees. The lush texture of it all.

I still think it's beautiful — but my thoughts and feelings about this picture, and others I took during that journey, changed as I met and talked with dozens of tea pluckers and their families. Some of the world's most stunning scenery can conceal dire poverty.

And so it is with this picture; there are 11 women working inside the frame of this photograph. If we apply the statistic that 70 percent of women on Assam's tea plantations are illiterate, that means that at least seven of these women can't read or write.

Does that change the way you look at this picture? Mercy Corps and Tazo Tea are teaming up to improve life on the tea estates.