Insights from Cocoa Life's international women’s day celebration in Ghana

Progress Blog
Insights from Cocoa Life's international women’s day celebration in Ghana

By Matilda Broni, Community Development Manager for Cocoa Life in Ghana - 22/03/16

When Cocoa Life started planning a celebration for International Women’s Day here in Ghana, we chose to have it in the Wassa East district, in part because the union manager there is a woman, their district coordinating director is a woman, and their NGO program manager is also a woman.

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I served as co-MC, and was pleased that 540 people came to the event in the small cocoa-farming community of Amponsaso. While most of the participants were from Amponsaso, Cocoa Life welcomed two women from 22 communities in the district and one woman each from 30 communities representing 17 districts. A government representative from the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection spoke about how Ghana is aiming to have gender equity—50/50 for everything—by 2030, and encouraged women to take good care of their girls and to educate them, to make sure girls have the same opportunities that are given to boys.

The week before our conference, Oxfam published a new report addressing women’s rights in the cocoa sector. The report discusses emerging good practices in addressing women’s role as cocoa farmers identified during a multi-stakeholder meeting held in Accra, Ghana, on September 10 and 11, 2015, with cocoa traders, chocolate brands, cocoa producers’ organizations, government, and NGOs. Oxfam noted that work on women’s rights and cocoa is in the early stages and significant efforts are still needed. However, good practices are beginning to emerge in ten key areas that support various stages of change, with specific outcomes for women farmers and an accompanying transformation of cocoa supply chains. We were pleased to support the Accra workshops and to contribute our learnings to the report in areas such as female leadership of farmer cooperatives, inclusive training and extension, community needs assessments, and multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Yaa Peprah Amekudzi, the country lead for Cocoa Life Ghana, touched on many of these same themes at the Cocoa Life celebration. She talked about empowering women to take up their rightful position in society. We believe that when women are empowered, socially and economically, they will be able to better support their children, and the entire community can thrive. She also said the time has come for women to be recognized. For that to happen, women cocoa farmers need support: As one example, making sure trainings are scheduled during times that are women-friendly.

We also offered health screenings for sugar levels, blood pressure, and breast cancer. The women were very happy about that because the nearest clinic is 10 kilometers away.

In prior years, for conferences such as this, representative farmers from different communities would come together in a central urban location such as Accra. But I was so pleased that this year we held this celebration in a rural area. After the program, many women came to me and told me, “Madame Matilda, this is the first time we see women talking to women, women trying to support women, and also men talking about the role women are playing in their life.” It’s something that does not normally happen here. Even though women in cities experience this every day, for these women it’s the first time they have seen such a thing.

I was also pleased—and surprised—to see so many men at the celebration: More than 150. When I asked why they had come, they said, “It would be good for us to also learn about women and their roles in our community.”

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