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Supporting the Women’s School of Leadership


Ahead of International Women’s Day, we want to share some of our work in supporting some of the women cocoa producers of Cote d’Ivoire.

Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, is one of the countries in the world with the highest levels of discrimination against women. Currently ranking 171st on the Gender Inequality Index, this is partly due to high levels of discrimination women face when accessing the labour market, land, education, healthcare and family planning.

We caught up with Barney Smyth, Partnership Manager, Fairtrade Foundation who provided an update on the Women School of Leadership that we support…

The Women’s School of Leadership launched nine months ago, as a programme delivered in partnership with Compass Group UK & Ireland and Fairtrade. The programme so far has supported 22 participants to enhance women’s economic empowerment and leadership in Fairtrade Small Producer Organisations. To achieve this, the programme enables women to acquire the skills and abilities to improve their livelihoods. So far, the group have undertaken training in topics including women’s rights, leadership, economy and Fairtrade’s gender strategy.

Over the past nine months, the participants have developed enormously through their learnings, and we want to shine the light on some of the hero women we are championing in Cote d’Ivoire.

“I didn’t know my rights before the training but now I know, and I also understand that those around me have their own rights, and nobody can take them away from them.”

These were the words shared by Eba Yvonne who is actively sharing her learnings with the COOPACA community as a way of creating awareness about women’s rights. Medaline Krate Hua from the COOPAME cooperative reflected on the fact that she has now gained so much more confidence to speak in public and about her role within the cooperative. She now has been successfully appointed on to the board of her cooperative to work in an administrative role.

Kouakou Yah Catherine (Cathy) from CAEK cooperative has actively been speaking to the Board within her cooperative in order to develop a forum for women to voice their opinions with the group. Cathy is also working with other women in the CAEK cooperative in order to evaluate the success of their business model, and how they have diversified their incomes. Cathy was also invited to present at the regional Fairtrade convention in Accra. As leader within her community, she is going to disseminate their knowledge on other income streams through the production of beauty creams and soaps, in turn generating more revenue for their business.

To build on this, following completion of the Women’s School of Leadership modules, the participants will work in smaller groups called Associations in order to develop a business plan to support the running of their cooperatives, and apply for a grant from Fairtrade Africa in order to fund the first year of their activities.

The first year of the Women’s School of Leadership is going to run until May, where the participants will attend a graduation ceremony. We look forward to reporting back on the successes and plans over the next couple of years to scale up the project in West Africa, supporting a greater number of participants and delivering a vital positive impact to some of the most marginalised communities.

Read here to find out more about the Women School of Leadership.

Cathy is working with other women in the CAEK cooperative