12 May 2017

New Programme with Women Cocoa Farmers Seeks to Close Gender Gap

Launching today, the Women’s School of Leadership is an innovative new programme which will improve women’s opportunities in cocoa communities in Côte d’Ivoire. The programme is being led by the producer network Fairtrade Africa.

20276 Womens School Leadership CDI 800
Women cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire.
Image © Nabil Zorkot

Research shows that despite making up almost half of the workforce, the majority of women farmers in developing countries receive lower pay than men, are often unable to own land and are excluded from business loans or agricultural training that male farmers benefit from. Yet research suggests closing the gender gap could actually address poverty.

Through a rigorous training programme, the 24 students of the Class of 2017 will become role models and share what they learn within their communities and co-operatives. The women come from seven Fairtrade cocoa cooperatives in Cote d’Ivoire, which represent almost 5,000 members. They will gain skills in finance, negotiation, and decision-making as well as greater awareness of gender equality.

One of the new participants on the course is cocoa farmer Kouame Ehui Edith, a single mother of one child, who left secondary school before graduating. She is a member of SCAEK cooperative, a Fairtrade certified organization in Koboti, around 200km North of Abidjan. She hopes to gain skills to help her with her business and her work as a community leader for SCAEK. “The Women’s School of Leadership will be a good opportunity for us women to learn,” said Kouame Ehui Edith. “I am looking forward to this programme changing my life.”

Dr Tsitsi Choruma, Chief Operating Officer, Fairtrade Africa, said: “We believe Fairtrade Africa’s first ever Women’s Leadership School can be a catalyst for change, increasing women’s agency in leadership and contribute to changing social norms which are key barriers to women’s participation in business. Currently in Côte d’Ivoire women make up 68 percent of the labour force, yet only 25 percent own land. As such, few have roles in the business, are able to access the revenue generated from cocoa or even have bank accounts. This programme is vital for us to begin redressing the balance for agricultural communities.”

Two UK businesses – leading convenience retailer Co-op and the Compass Group UK & Ireland, the UK’s largest food and support services firm - have committed £100,000 (€118,500) in funding to support the programme.

The launch event is taking place in Abengourou, Côte d'Ivoire on 12 May. The women students will be attending, as well as community members and representatives from Fairtrade and our partner organizations.

Read more about Fairtrade’s work to address gender inequality