The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges to individuals around the world, not least for cocoa farmers in Cote D'Ivoire, who typically earn roughly 48% of what is needed to meet a living income. Women's roles within the community mean that this struggle is even further amplified.
Compass has been pleased to demonstrate ongoing support to Fairtrade initiatives over the past three years, continuing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This work is underpinned by our commitment to Women in Food, which we continue to advocate for through our network’s activity. To tackle gender inequality amongst cocoa farmers, the Women's School of Leadership was launched in 2017; initially pictured as a project to enable women to acquire skills and abilities which can improve their livelihood by educating them on topics such as leadership, investments, gender policy and more, the impact of this programme in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than ever. The programme offers the chance for women to be empowered financially and personally and play a part in forging a path for a community of female leaders.
Rosine Bekoin, graduate of the School of Leadership, and now Secretary of the CAYAT Women's Society, reflected on the effect that the programme has had: "I would like to thank them [Compass] because thanks to them I have been able to wake up from my fear and gain confidence in order to do a better job. I would like this school to be introduced for all West African communities as it is for us for all those women to be able to take part to this school."
So far, the school has seen over 60 participants, and looking beyond this, the wider reach of the programme has allowed over 1000 people to benefit from the training and discussions led by members of the earlier cohorts; seeing the long-term effects has only reinforced the importance of this programme.
This year's graduation offered the opportunity to look ahead to the future for the programme's graduates. Anne-Marie Yao, Regional Cocoa manager, Fairtrade Africa's West African Network said: "This graduation is not the end. On the contrary, it is the beginning of another phase of the training – a practical phase. We remain convinced that this project will contribute to improving the image of women at the cooperative level, so that their voices are increasingly heard in their cooperatives."