How Cocoa Life Supports Gender Equality

Progress Blog
How Cocoa Life Supports Gender Equality

By Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, Programme Director, Cocoa Life, Ghana - 03/15/13

In Ghana there are many butterflies: bright red ones, and blue ones, and black ones with patches of green.

There is a parable about a man who saw a butterfly struggling to get out of a cocoon. It seemed so hard and it was taking so long. The man didn't want to see things be so difficult for the butterfly so he snipped the sides of the cocoon in an effort to free it.

But the butterfly didn't fly, it just flopped onto the ground. In fact, it never flew at all.

Even with good intentions, his help had caused harm.

To understand women's lives in cocoa communities throughout the world and specifically in West Africa has taken time. Only with thorough listening to women, research and examination could programs be developed that had a chance to thrive.

These programs begin at the center: inside the cocoa communities. Cocoa Life had to get inside the cocoon to understand how to help break it open, and to support true transformation.

Cocoa Life started in Ghana in 2008 as the The Cadbury Cocoa Partnership, and was extended in 2012 by Mondelēz International with a commitment to invest $400 Million over the next 10 years in Ghana and other cocoa growing countries. Cocoa Life has been working hard to develop a framework to tackle issues of gender equality, amongst other social issues, at the community level.

The Cocoa Life program is led by women, and the local Cocoa Life team in Ghana is also run by a woman, in fact women comprise 50% of the team in Ghana. To date, the Cocoa Life program in Ghana has 50 Women Extension Volunteers and Women's Groups, in 100 communities. We are now working to establish women’s groups in an additional 109 communities. These Women Extension Volunteers provide practical guidance to women in their community by teaching technological advances in farming that will lead to higher yields, by offering entrepreneurial ideas for the non-harvesting season to insure year-round earning, and by creating programs that support health, hygiene, education, and gender equality. I hope you will enjoy the interview with Vida Naki about her role as a Women Extension Volunteer.

In just these past two years, we have already seen a 20 percent increase in cocoa yields, a 200 percent increase in some of the household incomes and an 80 percent increase in government-backed development. By putting women at the center of communities, giving those women the opportunity to be seen and heard, and by focusing the Cocoa Life program on communities, profound improvements in the quality of life have become possible for all in the cocoa communities. Empowering women elevates the entire community in terms of health, education, profits, and spirits.

Because of Cocoa Life, more and more women are gaining access to the benefits that come from cocoa farming. Cocoa Life is placing a high value on the input and ideas of women in the cocoa communities. The Cocoa Life program continues to empower more and more communities. And the women in those cocoa communities, like the butterflies, are emerging.

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