CLMRS Agents (also known as Community Facilitators or Field Officers) are the first point of contact that cocoa-producing households have with the Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System and are key to its success. They are responsible for explaining the CLMRS and its objectives, raising awareness on harm caused by child labour, and conducting interviews with farming families to identify children who need support.
How the CLMRS, and the agent’s experiences, are impacted by their gender
ICI’s CLMRS Effectiveness review (published in July 2021) found that even though female agents were more successful at identifying cases of child labour, women are significantly underrepresented among CLMRS agents.
This new study is based on qualitative data collected in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire about female CLMRS agents, and looks at the results of activities tested to achieve a better gender balance amongst agents in two cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire. It examined the qualities that women bring to the job, the benefits women get from doing the job, the reason why so few females are doing the job, and what could be done to recruit and retain more female agents.
- Women excel in the role of CLMRS agents. They attain or exceed their objectives in terms of monthly visits; they identify on average more cases of child labour.
- Women can have special access to children, because parents sometimes prefer a woman to interview their child; and because they make children feel at ease during interviews.
- The job is a source of empowerment for women, since it offers important opportunities for women to:
- develop professional and personal skills,
- build social capital,
- gain self-confidence,
- and acquire financial independence.
- Female agents are role models for girls and women in the communities. They break with cultural norms and demonstrate that they are professionally competent, can travel and are independent.
Increasing female representation in CLMRS agents
On Thursday, 6 July ICI hosted a webinar to present these results. Julie McBride, Tony’s Chocolonely, showcased the work done to achieve gender equality in its CLMRS, and to challenge gender norms.
Through a pilot study implemented in 2020/21 in two new partner cooperatives, the company aimed for 30% female representation in the role of CLMRS agents.
In order to attract female applicants for this job post, the company ensured that:
- the job announcements were disseminated in public places that women were known to frequent;
- the job announcement was spread by word-of-mouth;
- the advertisement played on the local radio;
- it was clear that assistance would be provided for motorcycle driving lessons and to obtain a license (agents travel extensively – often by motorbike – to visit houses and farms in surrounding communities but traditionally women do not drive motorbikes which was seen to be a blocker to recruitment); and
- it was clear that working hours would be flexible to accommodate familial needs and that a maternity benefit is provided.
The two cooperatives reached the goal of 30% female representation amongst CLMRS agents during the pilot period, and thanks to the buy-in from the local community the female agents are excelling in their posts. One agent currently making use of the maternity benefit offered. As a way forward, all new and existing cooperatives within the Tony’s supply chain will take this approach, with the company now aiming for 50% female representation amongst CLMRS agents in all their cooperatives. The company will be documenting the effectiveness of gender balanced teams. View the webinar here.
Child labour monitoring through locally-based agents
The second qualitative study explores the impact of an already-existing relationship between the agent and the farming family they are monitoring (for example because they are members of the same community, or because they have friendship or family relations). Qualitative data have been collected from agents and farmers in Ghana to better understand how a personal relationship between the agent and the farming family affects the farmer’s openness to talk about child labour; the interaction between the agent and the children in the household; and the effectiveness of awareness raising.
- When an agent knows the farmer personally, interaction is usually easier; however, questions around child work can be awkward to ask.
- When an agent does not know the farmer, there is more likely to be suspicion and fear of criminal investigation, which makes it difficult to get honest answers.
- Farmers are hesitant to let agents interview children directly, when the agent is unknown to them.
- Children are more likely to open up and encouraged to speak with an agent that they’re familiar with.
- Awareness raising is very effective, farmers listen with interest and attention - irrespective of personal relationship between farmer and agent.
The benefits of providing formal full-time employment contracts to locally based agents
Beyond Beans has been implementing CLMRS in the communities they work in for more than five years, Innocent Yeboah-Num presented the company's new approach with regard to locally based agents in Ghana. In 2022, the company went from managing 162 part-time locally based Community Facilitators to 28 full-time Field Officers who are based locally but cover a larger area, so would also visit farmers in other communities. The company found that while the cost of logistics was more expensive, i.e. for motorbikes, salaries and the benefits, full-time agents proved to be more effective in overall coverage, in terms of the number of visits done, child labour case identification and number and frequency of follow up visits with children. Furthermore, data quality improved significantly. The company attributes this change to:
- An increase in sense of responsibility because this was the sole job the agents were employed for, as opposed to the part-time agents having multiple jobs that divided their attention, and
- An increase in accountability after having signed a formal contract, knowing that they would be subject to performance reviews.
The company further found that the organisation of visits was better when the Field Officer was known to the farmer, and that the data collected was more credible. However, when it comes to awareness-raising sessions, farmers were less interested to hear from the same Facilitator who had carried out the household-level session. The company found that the community was more engaged when awareness-raising sessions were presented by a Field Officer who was not known to them.
View the full reports on our website here: