Today marks International Literacy Day. This important day falls during the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour. As part of the International Year, the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) is sharing information about what works to tackle child labour. This article explores the important role that literacy can play, particularly amongst women, in protecting children in cocoa-growing communities in West Africa.

Educating parents, protecting children

When parents in cocoa-growing households are more educated the risk of child labour is lower. This is particularly the case when women are educated. In many rural communities, adults may not have had the opportunity to go to school. Providing parents with a second opportunity to learn, by running literacy and numeracy classes for adults, means adults are better equipped to support their children’s education, as well as reducing the risk of children doing child labour.

Supporting businesses and families

“As a result of my work, many people in my class are now able to use smartphones. They can also read the weight of their cocoa correctly when they go to sell it.” Those are the words of Agnes, a literacy and numeracy class facilitator from Ghana. She ran classes for adults in the community of Abease. The focus of these classes was to enable adult learners to better carry out everyday tasks and with these skills, some community members were able to improve their businesses. Agnes’ students learned to calculate how much they were investing in their farms, as well as their profit margins. Eunice, who works as a seamstress, learned to take measurements accurately, benefitting her clients and herself.

A foundation for other support

Building resilience among cocoa farming households is an important strategy to tackle child labour. Income Generating Activities can enable farming households to diversify their income and be less reliant on cocoa alone. Community groups, such as Village Savings and Loans Associations, allow community members, particularly women, to gain access to finance. These groups act as village banks, allowing members to invest and take out loans to support their businesses or pay for school fees. Run in parallel with literacy and numeracy classes, these activities can bring community members together, strengthen the financial security of households, and promote gender equality.

Benefitting children’s education

Research shows that in communities where education quality is higher, child labour is lower. Improving educational facilities, providing school kits and uniforms, running bridging classes for out-of-school children, training teachers and promoting innovative teaching methods (for example through the TRECC programme) are just a few ways to improve school enrolment, attendance, and children’s learning outcomes. Educating the future generations in cocoa-growing communities is an important way to break the cycle of poverty which is one of the root causes of child labour.

Improving child labour monitoring and remediation systems

ICI’s recent study on the effectiveness of Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems in West Africa found that monitors with higher levels of education are better at identifying children in child labour. As these monitors are often farmers themselves, improving literacy and numeracy in cocoa-growing communities could have long-term benefits by increasing the number of qualified candidates for these roles.

This article is part of a series highlighting what works to tackle child labour (more information here). At ICI we are working with our partners and the wider cocoa sector to ensure that these activities are scaled up as part of child protection systems to reach all those in need. Find out more in our 2021-2026 strategy.