In April, Mars Chocolate signed the United Nations Women’s Empowerment Principles as a demonstration of our commitment to empowering women in the cocoa sector. As part of our commitment to promoting the principle of “Mutuality”, Mars Chocolate commissioned an expert third party assessment of gender and women’s empowerment within the western region of Côte d’Ivoire where we are pursuing a large cocoa development program.
While the assessment made a number of observations and recommendations regarding the Mars program, it also offers the following conclusion that relates to all women who live and work on cocoa farms in the world’s largest cocoa producing country: “The long-term sustainability of cocoa rests in part on the ways the sector capitalizes on the full potential of women who labor long hours on cocoa farms, often to cultivate both cocoa and food.” The assessment effectively evaluates the business case for empowering women farmers in cocoa communities and provides a roadmap for enhancing our existing efforts to engage women in our Vision for Change program in Côte d’Ivoire.
There are important reasons for the broader cocoa industry to support the advancement of women in Côte d’Ivoire. As the report suggests, research shows that women are more likely to spend additional income on things that ultimately help the community as a whole, including food, healthcare, and education for their children.
It is estimated that women provide 45 percent of the labor on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire, but due to cultural and economic factors, they are often not viewed or referred to as “farmers.” In large part, due to inequitable civil liberties and cultural norms in the country, women are being held back from fully participating in the cocoa sector.
Mars has determined that it is in the interest of all stakeholders to make the findings of the assessment public and we have posted the report in its entirety. It can be viewed here. Based on the recommendations of the assessment, we are in the process of developing a full gender outreach plan, which we will also share publicly and begin to implement in 2014.