4 Mar 2020

From Côte d'Ivoire to the Netherlands - two women, two countries, one world

In the run up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, we are featuring some of the countless inspiring women who work in Fairtrade farms and communities. Today, see how two women, one Dutch and one Ivorian, have more in common thanks to Fairtrade.

2020 Womensday 870

Myriam, 21, is the daughter of a cocoa farming family that is a member of Cayat Cooperative in Côte d’Ivoire. She is part of a generation that is being raised by mothers who have seen their role as women undergo great changes during their lifetimes.

When Myriam’s mother, Yaoua, was younger, it was the norm for women not to have money of their own. Having separate accounts, or for a woman to be the owner of an account, was unthinkable.

This has changed for the families of Cayat, thanks in part to a Fairtrade programme called the Women’s School of Leadership. This year-long programme, launched in 2017 with seven cooperatives and initially funded by the UK retailer Co-op and the Compass Group UK & Ireland, aims to develop women’s skills in finance, negotiation, and decision-making. It also promotes greater awareness of gender equality – including for men who also participate in the programme so they can serve as champions within their communities.

Programme leaders coach women and men to work together manage their finances and track their expenses. Yaoua now earns and spends her own money. While she now has her own bank account, Yaoua talks of solidarity and the ability of spouses to support each other. Yaoua has helped her husband financially, for instance when he had a motorcycle accident and additional funds were needed to cover the medical bills.

Living 5,000 kilometers away, Veronica van Hoogdalem is a Dutch television presenter and actress. Having grown up in the Netherlands, she was raised in a social structure in which women earning and controlling their own income is neither novel nor surprising.

Yet the everyday life of Myriam and Veronica is in some ways not so different. Both enjoy good food and company, laughing with their loved ones and enjoying a day off.

Thanks to Fairtrade, their social roles and responsibilities as women are starting to become more similar as well. Myriam’s mother Yaoua, who continues to be a leader within her cooperative, is working hard for a future of equal rights and responsibilities, for herself as well as the next generations.

Fairtrade supports women to participate equally in agriculture, earn better wages and succeed on their own terms. Read more about Fairtrade's work on gender equality.