News 28 September 2017

“Aïssa” – a comic book with an important message

Marguerite Abouet

Ivorian writer, screenwriter and director Marguerite Abouet, author of the famous comic series “Aya de Yopougon”, has just developed a very special comic book entitled “Aïssa, l’arbre à chocolat” (Aissa, the chocolate tree), which was officially launched on Wednesday 27 September in Abidjan. The short story focuses on the issue  of child labour in cocoa farming,  the daily struggles and hopes of farmers and their children. The main objective of the author is to make children aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Through the discoveries of the main character, the young girl Aïssa, the reader learns about village life, what is light work and what is hazardous child labour in cocoa-growing. It also shows aspects of raising awareness, what is being done to address this problem, and why some children aren’t able to attend school.

To refine her work, Marguerite Abouet immersed herself in two cocoa communities in ICI’s intervention zones, Sokrogbo and Binao. These communities are members of the CANN cooperative in N’ Douci, in the department of Divo.

In Sokrogbo, Marguerite Abouet attended a training session of the farmer field schools. The theme of the day was “worst forms of child labour”. The session was co-facilitated by ICI’s Community Associate and the Rural Development Officer of ANADER. The training, attended by 30 cocoa farmers,  allowed the author to identify the activities carried out by children within the cocoa community.

In Binao, the author of Aïssa spoke with a group of 19 women. They presented their maize and cassava production through income generating activities supported by ICI. The discussions focused on women’s organisation and their financial contribution to the family unit.

“It was a pleasure to visit the cocoa communities in Côte d’Ivoire and to exchange with the producers and their wives. It was a very rewarding experience and it allowed me to better understand the complexity of the problem. A child who is informed and aware of this issue can pass the message on to those around him or her, in order to significantly reduce the use of children in cocoa plantations. Children are sensitive and innocent targets, “said Marguerite Abouet.

“Aïssa, l’arbre à chocolat” was designed with the financial support of Nestlé, one of ICI’s members, in the framework of awareness-raising initiatives against child labour. This activity is part of Nestlé’s action plan to combat child labour in its supply chain and improve the lives of children in cocoa communities. The books will initially be distributed to the Nestlé Cocoa Plan communities as part of childrens’ school packs.

You can read the comic strip “Aissa, l’arbre à chocolat” here (in French).