Joseph Mensah is a forty-three-year-old cocoa farmer in the Eastern region. He is a member of ABOCFA, an organic cocoa producing cooperative. He was selected as an ambassador for education by Tony’s Chocolonely . He is also one of the Community Facilitators (CFs) leading the Tony’s ChocolonelyChild Labour Monitoring and Remediation System in ABOCFA.
As an Ambassador, his responsibility is to educate children and parents on the benefits of education in his community. As a CF, he creates awareness on child labour and collects data on the farmers and their families in his community.
This year, Joseph decided to take some steps to cause a change in his community. He decided to lead the drive to put in place a community by-laws to regulate child protection issues. Farmers in eight of the communities have agreed to subject themselves to these by-laws. He tells us what pushed him to take this initiative;
“Through my work as a CF and an ambassador, I came to realize the numerous issues which posed a challenge to child protection and interest in education among the children in our society. My first observation was the fact that our children didn’t sleep early especially when there were night vigils in the community. This has resulted in teenage pregnancy among many of the girls. The children were also fond of gathering around the drinking bars in the evenings instead of studying. Another issue was the fact that our school’s location made it a grazing and sleeping place for domestic animals. This meant the children had to scrub their classrooms daily due to the mess the animals make. It was a very disturbing situation for me as it did not encourage punctuality and regularity among the children. They didn’t want to clean up from the house only to come and get dirty again in the process of scrubbing their classrooms. In addition to this, when unsupervised, some of the children also engaged in gambling around the school premises, sometimes during classes hours. ”
These observations became an issue of worry for Joseph and he decided to take some action to change them.
“I started my interactions at a meeting of the Parents Teachers Association (PTA). I revealed who I was and told them the observations I have made. They accepted them to be true and agreed we needed to put measures in place to curb the situation.”
This acceptance by the teachers and parents, empowered Joseph to champion the cause for this change. With the training he received from ICI on how to interact with people, Joseph was able to bring key stakeholders on board to support this vision.
“I met with the ICI Field Assistant, the leadership of the community and the executives of ABOCFA to discuss the issue with them. They also agreed with the decision of the PTA. Together, we decided the best way to ensure the change was to put in place by-laws which will guide the people to see the change they wanted."
Joseph again approached ICI to assist the society in undertaking this initiative. We made it a duty to support him to make this vision a reality for the good of the children in the society.
“A community wide meeting was called, and the issues were raised before our people. They all decided a committee should be established to draft the by-laws. This was done. Today, I see the community coming together to review the work of the committee and accept the by-laws as binding on our activities.”