International Women’s Day #BalanceforBetter

Fairtrade Foundation: Rosine Bekoin, cocoa farmer and secretary of the cooperative’s women’s society

The long road to equality 

Each year on March 8th across the world the achievements of women are celebrated on International Women’s Day. Influential speakers promote the importance of the social, economic, cultural and political impact women have globally, and there is a call to action for everyone to help drive forward gender parity.

There have been great strides forward since the first International Women’s Day (IWD), over a century ago in 1911, but we’ve still got a long way to go. This years campaign message is #BalanceforBetter – a balanced world is a better world. Gender equality is not just a woman’s issue – society as a whole, including the economy, feels the impact.

This years campaign brings together community groups and charities, the media, governments and businesses to build a gender balanced world. One of the benefits of social media is that we all have the power to raise awareness and initiate change.

IWD and Fairtrade

We’ve been looking closely at the cocoa industry for Fairtrade Fortnight, where gender inequality is stark. Women in the cocoa industry in West Africa have fewer rights than men. They are often responsible for the planting and harvest on the cocoa farms, as well as the transport of cocoa beans to market. This has to fit around the daily needs of the family- looking after children, collecting wood for the fire to cook on, and carrying water for drinking and washing. This enables other family members to labour on the farm and keep it productive. 

Fairtrade Foundation: N’guessan Cha Blandine of CAYAT harvests a cassava root from their Fairtrade Premium-funded income diversification project

Women play a vital role in building sustainable communities and are key to child protection in cocoa growing areas. Child labour is common place in these poverty stricken regions, and raiseing awareness of human rights within the industry is critical . Groups including the International Cocoa Initiative Foundation work to increase the number of women involved in leadership roles within the community and  farming, but there are still many barriers to overcome. 

Fairtrade Foundation: Fairtrade Cocoa Story in the Ivory Coast.

Two thirds of labour force across the cocoa growing areas are made up of women, yet they only own a quarter of the farms. Women in this sector only earn 21% of the income generated from cocoa production (Marston 2016). This highlights the huge inequality in the gender pay gap. 

Women in the cocoa industry struggle to access credit and afford to hire adult labour – this often results in children being brought in to fill the labour gap. Where women have been empowered and invested in, there are clear signs of improvement. Women spend the majority of their income on their children’s education, and are far less likely to rely on child labour on their farms.

Fairtrade Foundation: Les Piazons nursdry school, Yakassé-Attobrou, built with Fairtrade Premium

She Deserves £1.86

The Fairtrade Foundations campaign ‘She Deserves’ highlights the need for a living income – particularly for the women in West Africa’s cocoa industry.

“£1.86* is the amount a cocoa farmer in West Africa needs to earn each day in order to achieve a living income. Currently, a typical cocoa farmer in Cote d’Ivoire lives on around 74p** a day. Almost all cocoa farmers in West Africa live in poverty.”

Fairtrade Foundation

This is what is needed to pay for essentials such as clothing, health care and children’s education. When we support Fairtrade, women in the cocoa industry can live a dignified life and support their families without relying on child labour.

We will be celebrating IWD by spreading the word and telling the story of the amazing women who work in the cocoa industry, and the importance of supporting Fairtrade chocolate – today and always. 

Additional Resources

Fairtrade Foundation

International Women’s Day

International Cocoa Initiative

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