Mars Chocolate strongly believes that empowering women is critical to making sure that cocoa is sustainable. In our Vision for Change program in Cote d’Ivoire, we’ve worked with women who are leaders in their communities to help develop plans that will improve their lives and the lives of their families and neighbors.
So we are pleased to announce an agreement we’ve reached with Oxfam America for a plan of action to empower women in cocoa communities. Both Oxfam and Mars Chocolate agree that an intentional approach across the sector is needed to improve the lives of women living in villages and towns where cocoa farming is dominant. We will be implementing a set of actions in the short, medium, and long-term that will help the industry evaluate and strengthen their current programs to ensure that women are able to both fully contribute to and benefit from development programs in cocoa.
This plan of action builds on the leadership Mars Chocolate has already demonstrated in empowering women. Mars Chocolate recognizes that the most effective way to address socio-economic challenges in cocoa communities around the world is to work comprehensively and holistically. The Sustainable Cocoa Initiative we launched in 2009 operates under the principle of putting farmers first. By helping farmers become more productive through better research, training, and a strong certification protocol, we believe we are also aiding them and their families improve their quality of life.
Within the Vision for Change program, Mars Chocolate has been listening to the concerns of women and working with women leaders in their communities to help develop community engagement plans. In addition to strengthening the voice and role of women in community leadership, Mars Chocolate is also working in a targeted way on the economic empowerment of women, which we believe will benefit women in cocoa communities specifically and farmers as a whole.
The company understands that women invest significantly greater proportions of their disposable income in family and community well-being. We’ve learned that the economic empowerment of women is not only a tool for gender equity in its own right, but that it also has a powerful multiplier effect for the broader well-being of children, families and communities. Recently, Mars Chocolate funded six economic development projects within the Vision for Change program to train women in developing local enterprises in areas such as animal rearing and crop production, which benefits both the nutritional needs of families as well as the income of women who sell surplus production in local markets.
To achieve the goals of strengthening programs within the sector to empower women in cocoa communities, we’ve committed to the following actions:
- Completing a comprehensive assessment of the condition of women cocoa farmers in our Vision for Change (V4C) program – which provides cocoa farmers with training in updated agricultural methods and is a key element in the company’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative – in Côte d’Ivoire by the end of this year.
- Signing the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles before May 1st.
- Developing and publishing a plan of action based on the assessment to ensure the Vision for Change program adequately addresses gender equity by April 1st of next year.
- Developing the foundation for a sector-wide assessment of gender equity by examining existing third party data on gender in the global cocoa sector and by using this review to identify knowledge gaps in 2014.
- Establishing a set of draft gender equity indicators that align with Vision for Change and can also be used across the global cocoa sector in conjunction with the V4C assessment.
- Using this review to advocate for and support a sector level review of gender equity in cocoa production through the sector-wide organizations by January 1, 2015.
- Support a sector level plan of action to address gender equity concerns by the same date.
- Reporting regularly on the condition of women in cocoa production in our top four cocoa origin countries by 2018 as a way of showing our commitment to transparency.
- Establish a plan of action to address in these origin countries as well by 2018.
Mars Chocolate has long been guided by the principle of Mutuality as one of our five Principles – this means we believe that everyone along the supply chain must benefit from the work we do. Our Sustainable Cocoa Initiative has also been guided by another principle – putting cocoa farmers first. We feel that this plan of action accords with these longstanding principles and we look forward to helping to improve the lives of women around the globe.
Read more about the agreement at Mars.com.