Women’s Rights in Côte d'IvoireWomen in Côte d’Ivoire have grappled with gender discriminatory practices for years. Examples include political exclusion, limited access to land and marginalization from high-paying jobs. According to the National Statistics Institute, 75% of rural Ivorian women live below the poverty line. Without access to basic social services, the chances of reaching economic independence are low for these women. Gender constraints highly limit women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

4 Facts About Women’s Rights in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Land Rights: The primary source of wealth in Côte d’Ivoire is land as the economy mainly depends on agriculture. About 66% of the land is used for agriculture and 43% of women participate in the agricultural workforce. However, women often lack rights to land due to customary laws that favor males, depriving women of economic empowerment. A lack of access to land also impacts women’s access to credit services that would also help women economically.
  2. Unpaid Care Work: In many societies, women shoulder the burden of household chores and caregiving duties. This is also the case in Côte d’Ivoire. According to U.N. Women, “women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men.” As a consequence, women have less time to participate in paid work and engage in educational opportunities that would help them rise out of poverty.
  3. Fertility Rates: Côte d’Ivoire’s fertility rate is high. In 2019, it averaged 4.6 births per woman. High fertility rates increase health risks for children and their mothers. It also lessens human capital investment, decelerates economic growth and aggravates environmental threats. High fertility rates correlate with inadequate access to family planning methods, low educational attainment and low levels of empowerment. Studies show that, worldwide, more “empowered women desire significantly fewer children” in contrast to less empowered women.
  4. Politics and Education: Women lack a voice within the public, social and political domains. The male-centered culture of Ivorian society does not accept the leadership of women in the public arena. In February 2021, just 11% of Ivorian women held positions as members of parliament. Despite the presence of women in Côte d’Ivoire’s government, women’s electoral weight is limited by minimal female representation so women are unable to hold true decisional power in politics. Moreover, in 2018, 40.5% of women were literate compared to 53.6% of men, putting women at a clear disadvantage.

Upholding Women’s Rights

The Organization of Active Women in Ivory Coast (OFACI) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1999 that focuses on fighting for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire. Its goals include increasing the literacy of girls and encouraging women’s leadership in social, political and economic environments. By creating programs to educate and support women, OFACI hopes to eliminate gender-based violence and discrimination against women. OFACI has 10 observation locations across the country that monitor and report on women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire on a monthly basis. The organization has recently been pushing for, at minimum, a 30% representation of women in politics.

Recent progress in the country includes a marriage bill that was approved by the Council of Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire in 2019. Its main goal is to legislate equality between men and women in marriage through specific provisions. These solutions include new rules for the nullity of marriage, inheritance rights and marital property distribution. Another aim of the bill is to increase the age of legal marriage. This legislative progress provides hope for women’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire.

UN Women Shea Butter Program

Another example of an innovative program that targets women’s empowerment is a climate-smart agricultural program launched by U.N. Women in Côte d’Ivoire in 2017. The program, funded by the Government of Japan, seeks to empower rural women in the shea butter production sector. The traditional method used to produce shea butter requires intense labor. The resulting product fails to meet international quality standards so the women who work in this field struggle to make high profits. Since October 2017, U.N. Women trained 300 women on improved production practices and upgraded equipment in manufacturing facilities to meet international standards. The program also assisted women in the shea butter industry with financing and market access.

Despite the discrimination against women in Côte d’Ivoire, change is coming. NGOs and the government are stepping up to ensure greater equality among women and men and uphold the rights of women in the country.

– Virginia Arena
Photo: Flickr

Construction sector in Côte d'IvoireIvory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, is a country located in West Africa. Although it is mostly known as the largest producer and exporter of cocoa globally, another successful industry is emerging in the country. As of 2019, the construction sector in Côte d’Ivoire accounts for 10% of the workforce, making it the third-largest source of employment. This sector has contributed to economic expansion since 2012. The COVID-19 pandemic may have stunted the growth of this sector, but it is expected to grow at least 6% once the country resumes normal conditions.

5 Key Facts About the Construction Sector in Côte d’Ivoire

1. Growth of the Sector: In 2011, the transportation sector became a priority, increasing the need for the construction sector. Spurred by public investment in roads and urban areas, construction saw major growth in GDP from 2015-2018. Through the years, more local companies have gotten involved. An increase in funding will allow the sector to continue its growth before the COVID-19 pandemic.

2. Impact of COVID-19: Construction became more difficult due to the pandemic. An increase in health regulations, a decline in access to supplies and lockdown all stunted the construction sector’s growth. However, Ivory Coast was able to slow the economic impact of COVID-19. Not only did the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assist them with a financial package, but the country’s economic diversification and government’s effective emergency spending plan also helped them become one of the few Sub-Saharan African countries to continue to achieve economic growth.

3. Global Assistance: The growth of the construction sector in Côte d’Ivoire has resulted in much global interest. In fact, many businesses in China have funded construction projects in the Ivory Coast, such as a hydroelectric dam in Soubré and a motorway in Abidjan. There are many projects still in development, including three stadiums for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

4. National Development Plan: The country’s new National Development Plan 2021-2025 intends to strengthen infrastructure development, which will help the construction sector’s growth. This agenda will also help increase exports and public investment.

5. Impact on Poverty: Ivory Coast has a high poverty rate despite its economic growth. As of 2020, the country’s poverty rate is at least 45%. If the construction sector continues its growth and increase in GDP, local construction projects will help develop an influx of jobs. As a result, the economy will continue to grow and help lower these rates of poverty.

Interweave Solutions

The nonprofit organization Interweave Solutions focuses on different sectors of a country. Their Masters of Business in the Streets, Literacy and Success Ambassador Programs allow for an increase in business understanding to improve homes and communities. By linking these three areas, this nonprofit works to increase self-reliance and lower poverty levels. This nonprofit wants citizens to have the ability to achieve a higher income by participating in these programs.

Ivory Coast’s construction sector will benefit from this nonprofit due to its unification of businesses and communities. The construction industry grew in GDP due to public investment, so Interweave Solutions’ focus on community involvement will continue to help the sector grow. The nonprofit’s focus on reducing poverty levels will help the country’s economy and help the GDP of the construction sector. The emerging construction sector of Ivory Coast has expanded over the years. Conclusively, The pandemic only serves as a roadblock for this construction’s economic growth.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Flickr

E-waste in Ivory Coast
The growing domestic demand for technology is causing e-waste in Ivory Coast, a country that people also know as Côte d’Ivoire. Ivory Coast is a West African country with a population of nearly 26 million.

The Scale of the Problem

E-waste produces persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These pollutants do not break down under natural conditions and they can cause numerous health issues in humans. This ranges from tissue damage to developmental disorders and cancer. Ivory Coast’s population includes 45% in poverty. Additionally, only 35% of the country’s rural inhabitants have access to clean water.

In 2009, Ivory Coast generated 15,000 tons of e-waste. While the country generates the majority of this waste domestically, a significant portion comes from developed countries in the E.U. An issue is that some of the imported waste is not recyclable, so it goes to local landfills. Ivory Coast’s government designed a system to prevent this. It hired an international waste management company, SGS, to inspect all incoming e-waste to make sure it was not pure waste. Since 2016, a system that National Waste Management Strategy developed created a specific supply chain for technology waste. The new system relies heavily on informal manual recycling of parts by locals. A major issue with waste management in Ivory Coast is that a robust waste exchange and sorting system is not present.

Ivory Coast Partners Working to Collect E-waste

A supermarket chain, Promusa, established technology waste deposit stations at all of its markets. It works to collect and refurbish the waste that undergoes collection for second, third or fourth-hand use, along with the cellphone company MTN Group and recycling outfit Ewa-Paganetti. In 2016, the MTN Group used a similar system to recycle 75 tons of technology waste. Five sites under the Mesad Electronic Waste Project exist in Ivory Coast. These recycling sites focus on mobile phones and other electronic handhelds. They hire Ivory Coast citizens to collect, sort and pack electronic waste for recycling in France. However, some locals are creating initiatives that complete all the steps of the recycling process in their communities.

A solidarity project called Create Lab in Abidjan has been teaching locals how to repair, reuse and recycle technology waste in their communities through 2020. Create Lab teaches locals in its community skills like how to strip wire and copper from waste or how to create new spools of wire. It then repurposes this technology to create household wind turbines and other community technology improvements. Bakary Bola, a local IT specialist who is also an internet café owner, manages the project. He said that the majority of electronic waste the program uses comes from local refuse.

The Benefits of Local-based Technology Recycling

Bakary Bola outlined a few benefits of electronic recycling. The first is that the locals can learn valuable maintenance skills to keep their technology lasting longer which means less technology waste ends up in landfills. The trained repairers then can fix the e-waste in order to provide laptops, phones and other equipment to their community. Through this work, the amount of POPs in communities reduces. All of these benefits build on each other to create a community that can turn a potential hazard into a valuable resource for its people.

– Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Africa
As the fourth largest export in the world, cocoa production has been a part of the global market ever since its introduction to Nigeria in 1984. Many big brand chocolate and ice cream companies such as Mars, Hershey and Snickers are dependent on this market, though much of the revenue does not go towards cocoa farmers or workers. In 2014, chocolate sales reached up to $100 billion, yet cocoa farmers were living off a wage of $1.25 per day. Here is some information about cocoa farmers in Africa and how Ben & Jerry’s supports them.

Child Labor in Cocoa Farming

With rising demands for cocoa production and insufficient compensation, cocoa farmers in Africa are less reluctant to discontinue the use of child labor. A study from the University of Chicago reported that about 1.6 million children work in cocoa farms, mostly found in Ghana and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire)—the two largest cocoa production sites. Ghana and Ivory Coast occupy two-thirds of the world’s cocoa bean production, both of which exploit poor children as young as 5-years-old that need to support their families.

Despite the slowed rates of child labor in Africa’s cocoa production, farmers and working children struggle to maintain any comfortable income to support themselves. Cocoa trees take years to cultivate and harvest, which is too time-consuming for a volatile and unreliable market price. Nongovernmental organizations that strive to end child labor in Africa speculate that the cocoa farmer’s insufficient income stems from supply chains. Although programs are in place to reduce child labor and raise farmers in the supply chain to be self-sufficient, cocoa production does not yield enough to combat poverty among the farmers and workers in the industry.

Ben & Jerry’s and Fairtrade

On Nov. 17, 2020, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand released a statement that announced its commitment to paying a livable wage to the cocoa farmers in Africa. In partnership with Fairtrade, Ben & Jerry’s plans to allocate funds towards Fairtrade’s Premiums, which are supplemental bonuses that farmers receive for quality work. With extra funding, cocoa farmers have been able to build health facilities and install essential services such as a water pump or solar panels.

Fairtrade also released its new mission statement to provide a livable income for its workers in the cocoa sector. By focusing on multidimensional poverty alleviation for cocoa workers, Fairtrade plans to allocate funds to implement assistant programs, make partnerships to push for sustainability, and push for policies to protect small stakeholders in poverty. By collaborating with Ben & Jerry’s, both brands guarantee financial support towards the 168,000 cocoa farmers abiding by environmentally-friendly structures and producing quality ingredients.

Looking Forward

Ben & Jerry’s continues to promote Fairtrade and the push for liveable wages in Ivory Coast and Ghana’s cocoa bean plantations. In its recent statement, it announced, “As part of our new price commitment for the cocoa we will work with Fairtrade to evaluate and be sure we are making a positive difference for farmers.” By marking its Fairtrade partnership on cocoa-based ice creams, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie will now be a reminder that consumers are supporting businesses in Africa.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Chocolate Production and Child Labor
When a person craves a quick snack or pick-me-up and runs to the store to grab their favorite chocolate bar, they may not wonder where the chocolate came from in the first place. However, much of cocoa production takes place in West African in places like the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The result of this cocoa harvest is sweet, but the process is quite bitter. Currently, 2 million children in these countries labor to produce chocolate. Over the last few years, measures have removed children from this labor. However, the problematic relationship between chocolate production and child labor has increased from 30% to 41%.

The Conditions of the Children

Children often work on small cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, and mostly as victims of human trafficking. They work day in and day out using machetes and harmful pesticides to harvest cocoa pods. The children are very young and overworked with hunger. Most of them have not even gone to school for many years.

Raising Awareness

The world’s chocolate companies are aware of the atrocities of chocolate production and child labor that are part of their products’ creation. Many have pledged to eradicate child labor in the industry, but have consistently fallen short. In an article in the Washington Post, Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Siegel addressed this issue. They outlined the continuous failure of many large companies to remove child labor from their chocolate supply chain. As a result of these companies’ negligence, the odds are substantial that a chocolate bar in the United States is the product of child labor. Some of the biggest chocolate brands, such as Nestle or Hershey, cannot even claim that child labor is not involved in their chocolate production.

Addressing the Issue

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) is combatting child labor in the chocolate production process. It has been creating plans and programs to break the cycle. Its research and data show that the Ivory Coast and Ghana produce 60% of the world’s chocolate, with a steadily increasing demand for chocolate worldwide. This will likely exacerbate child labor issues instead of stopping them. As the leading funders of child labor combatting programs, ILAB has raised $29 million to fight child labor in chocolate production in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

ILAB formed the Child Labor Cocoa Coordinating Group (CLCCG). It brought together the governments of the Ivory Coast and Ghana and representatives from the International Chocolate and Cocoa Industry together. They had essential conversations that are integral in eradicating child labor in the chocolate industry.

The CLCCG works toward eradicating child labor. It has also been integral in raising awareness about this issue and creating resources to combat it. However, it cannot do it all by itself. Governments, stakeholders and large chocolate companies must commit themselves to removing children from harmful environments for the sake of cocoa production.

Looking Ahead

Chocolate production and child labor have gone hand in hand for decades. However, through the efforts of government organizations, the cocoa production process could become as sweet as its end product.

Kalicia Bateman
Photo: Unsplash