By Sarah Zoen, Senior Advisor, Gender and Regional Policy
It takes all of us to change the way our food is grown. That was the message from the Gender Equality in the Cocoa value Chain: A Multi-Stakeholder Workshop on Lessons and Emerging Good Practice where I was last week in Ghana - two years after Behind the Brands supporters persuaded Nestle, Mars and Mondelez to give women cocoa farmers in their supply chains a fair deal.
Last week I joined civil society leaders, cocoa growers, traders, company representatives and industry experts to discuss how to get a better, more sustainable deal for women cocoa farmers.
But what's happened since that cocoa commitment in 2013? These big three chocolate makers made big promises but are only just starting to understand and recognise the issues faced by women in their supply chains.
In October 2014, Oxfam published the results of an independent evaluation of the impact assessments and action plans. These showed that all companies need to raise their ambitions, especially Mars and Nestlé. In response, Nestlé published a more detailed action plan, as did Mars later in 2015, while Mondelez is working to implement their plan through 2015. Oxfam will continue to monitor their progress and make sure it happens; changing the system while challenging the companies involved is the big prize. Not only is women’s empowerment a moral issue it is also an economic one and it is our collective responsibility from the producer to consumer that women farmers and workers have the voice and agency to make that a reality.
“We are working together for cocoa sustainability. It is the responsibility of all of us from producer to consumer” - Mariame Yaya Toure, advocate for women in the cocoa industry from the Ivory Coast.
In developing countries, on average women account for 43% of the agricultural labor force, making gender equality and women’s empowerment central to increasing productivity and reducing poverty. However, women’s rights are the second lowest scoring theme: eight of the Big 10 companies score five or below. This is despite efforts from Mars, Mondelez and Nestlé to follow through on commitments to do more for women’s rights in their cocoa supply chains.
In addition, every one of the world's ten biggest food and beverage companies still falls short of upholding sufficient guidelines and standards for their suppliers on this issue.
“Farming is easy when your land is a piece of paper and your pen is a hoe” meaning to say “we should never pretend to speak on behalf of the farmers. Farmers should talk for themselves”
- Rudolf Scheffer, Oxfam Cocoa Expert
In support of leaders like Mariame, Behind the Brands supporters have taken more than 700,000 actions to call on the Big 10 to clean up their supply chains since the campaign began in 2013. A number of companies have genuinely listened and acted. But what does all this talk really mean for people who are working in the companies’ supply chains?
“If you want to empower a woman it doesn’t help unless you also support her to access resources… we need to look at women's specific needs and taking away the specific barriers which women are facing”
- Monica Aidoo Dadzie, Kaupa Kokoo Organisation, Ghana
The food and beverage sector must continue to use its influence within roundtable and sector initiatives to discuss action and implement solutions. This may involve collectively resolving issues with common suppliers and sharing knowledge and expertise with others across supply chains. These companies can also use their power and influence to advocate to governments for stronger legislation, like stronger protection of labor rights. Hopefully the presence and engagement of cocoa companies here last week is a positive sign that they are ready to do so.