ICI Stakeholder Meeting in Abidjan: Education and Vocational Training at the heart of the debates
The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) held its 6th Stakeholder Meeting in Abidjan on Monday, 6 November, dedicated to exploring opportunities for education and vocational training for adolescents. Assembling a unique group of thought-leaders, government bodies, private sector companies, development actors, cocoa-farmer representatives and civil society organisations, the meeting’s objective was to share knowledge and identify and discuss workable, scalable solutions for older children in cocoa-growing communities.
Children in the age spectrum of 13 to 17 years are the most at risk to be engaged in child labour in cocoa-growing, as they are more likely to drop out of school and as the secondary school system isn’t as evolved and accessible as primary education. Culturally, they are also often considered being close to adulthood, and therefore ready to engage in labour. The current options to protect older children are limited – enrolment onto non-formal and vocational training programmes is difficult, as they are both very scarce in rural areas and require a high amount of resources to be established and delivered.
“I’m encouraged by what we have collectively achieved over the last 4 years since the last Stakeholder Meeting in Côte d’Ivoire”, said ICI’s Executive Director Nick Weatherill, “but I am not complacent – far from it. The fact remains that a vast majority of cocoa farmers live in poverty, a situation that has likely been exacerbated by the recent drop in world market prices for cocoa, and so long as that poverty prevails, their children are at risk.”
Government representatives from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire presented the challenges both countries face regarding the issues of education and vocational training and set a technical framework for the following discussions and workshops. “The fight against the worst forms of child labour cannot be limited to repressive measures”, noted Jean-Claude Kouassi, Côte d’Ivoires Minister of Employment and Social Protection. “It requires, in particular, the implementation of public policies that guarantee children’s right to quality education that must be free and compulsory, the right to health and social protection, as well as the right to viable alternatives for the economically weak. The right to education can only be effective if the training offered and the means used are commensurate with the needs expressed at the national level. This is why, in addition to general education, the State is working to develop technical and vocational courses adapted to all profiles and able to guarantee young people a quality professional integration.”
An institutional film of the National Monitoring Committee for Action to Combat Trafficking in Children and Child Labour (CNS) and a documentary presenting testimonies of vocational training experiences and bridging classes within ICI’s programmes allowed detailed insight into the topic.
A partnership agreement between the CNS, represented by Patricia Yao, Chief of Staff of the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, and ICI was signed between the two parties. This partnership concerns the revision of the training and awareness-raising tools developed by ICI and national partners, determining the list of light work authorized for children between 13 and 16 years of age, and the decree determining the list of hazardous work prohibited to children; strengthening the capacities of the various actors involved in the fight against child labour in Côte d’Ivoire; improving basic social infrastructure in the communities where ICI is present, and defining the collaboration and coordination of child labour monitoring and remediation efforts in cocoa-growing areas.
A thematic round table on improving the accessibility and adequacy of educational and training opportunities for adolescents preceded the workshops, which allowed the participants to delve deeper into the thematic content and actively suggest inputs and solutions.
The 6th ICI Stakeholder Meeting was chaired by Dominique Ouattara, First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, Head of the CNS, who was represented at the ceremony by Patricia Yao, Head of the First Lady’s cabinet, and held in collaboration with the World Cocoa Foundation and the Jacobs Foundation.