The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has over 13 years of experience tackling child labour with our partners. During this time, we have learned a lot about what works to protect children and support cocoa communities to thrive. One of those actions is the importance of gender, specifically women’s empowerment, when tackling child labour. In this blog post, Euphrasie Aka, Country Director of ICI’s Côte d’Ivoire office, explains more.

Hélène is from Zougounou, a cocoa-growing community in Côte d’Ivoire. She is just one of many women who have benefitted from the roll out of Village Savings and Loans Associations, put in place by ICI. By taking out a loan from this village association, a community savings group that operates like a rural bank, she was able to open a small shop in her community. “I sell cloth, aubergines, spices, and also sweet potatoes. I sell a bit of everything,” she explains. At ICI, we work with our partners to empower women like Hélène to become changemakers in the fight against child labour in their communities.

To reach our goal of eliminating child labour, we base our strategy on women who are called upon to play a key role in all aspects of the fight against it. We know that when women are educated and empowered to take decisions this can have a positive impact on their entire household, including children’s welfare and protection. When women have more disposable income, this generally goes towards their children’s education. Our experience has also shown that providing literacy and numeracy classes, coupled with the roll out of VSLAs, and supporting women to become entrepreneurs and open small businesses to diversify their income, contribute to the betterment of the lives of women and their children. Hélène is just one example of many.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, empowering women has become even more crucial. Farming families in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to shocks to income and school closures caused by the pandemic. Diversifying farming families’ income can help increase their ability to cope. That’s why we promote the involvement of women in activities to develop alternative sources of income, such as beekeeping and rice farming.

It is also crucial to include women directly in the fight against child labour. Through our community development approach, we have seen how vital the inclusion of women is to the creation of community action plans that support child-centred development. We have seen how, when involved in Community Child Protection Committees, women can drive change in their communities and bring others on board in the fight against child labour.

Similarly, when women are employed as community facilitators in Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems, analysis has shown that their inclusion can benefit the identification of child labour cases. Incentivizing women to take up these roles, for example through targeted recruitment campaigns, training, and other efforts to removing barriers to their participation, is just one example of how these systems could be made more effective.

Simply put, we know how important women’s empowerment is in the fight against child labour. We know how crucial it is to tackle gender issues in cocoa communities as part of the journey to improve child protection. With our partners, we are aiming to scale up human rights due diligence-based child protection systems to cover all children at risk by 2025 across the cocoa supply chain in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. To do this, we need to recognize the vital role that women have to play and expand the implementation of those actions at scale.

In this International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, we have the opportunity to intensify our efforts to tackle child labour. We must ensure that women are included in decision-making and receive the support they need to become real agents of change.

Find out more about the importance of women’s empowerment when tackling child labour.