Together we can
How to make sure that what works in protecting children in West African cocoa communities can be scaled up was the theme that brought participants together at ICI’s 2014 Stakeholder Meeting on 18 November 2014.
Representatives of the cocoa and chocolate industry, cocoa producing governments, childrens’ rights advocates, workers’ unions, civil society organisations, and UN agencies shared their views about good practices in child protection in cocoa as well as obstacles to achieving them.
“It is possible to have a child labour-free Ghana, “ said Andrews Tagoe of the General Agricultural Workers Union of Ghana. “We have the dream team here in this room working tirelessly on it.”
Lack of schools and a large number of children without birth certificates were given as examples of obstacles to education encountered both by UNICEF and the chocolate companies operating in Cote d’Ivoire. According to UNICEF, one out of three children is not registered at birth, and therefore can’t complete her or his studies; only five out of nine children complete primary school and only two out of seven complete lower secondary school. Despite the country’s strong economic performance recently, a total of 52% of children live below the poverty line.
“We are here to find out how we – the cocoa sector, NGOs and the UN – can work with governments in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to bring about systematic change for children in cocoa communities, “ said Adele Khudr, UNICEF’s Representative in Cote d’Ivoire. “We are lucky to be dealing with child protection because there is no one on this planet who can say no to children.”
Among the recipes for change, experts from various sectors agreed on the need to give women in cocoa communities a stronger voice, a decision-making role in the community, and potential to earn income. Participants also explored the capacities that needed to be built, and that could be strategically linked up, in farmers’ organisations, in the supply chain and in local and national government to strengthen and scale-up child labour monitoring and remediation.
“We have collectively taken stock of what each actor can do and is doing, and how we might take that to the next level, “ said Nick Weatherill of ICI. “ICI has a privileged position as an honest broker between different stakeholder groups. This allows us to pinpoint strategic partnerships and catalyse collaborations that can promote sector-wide change and transform the lives of cocoa farmers and their families.“