I was thrilled to be joined by other Members of Parliament and Peers, with the Fairtrade Foundation, in calling for urgent action to end the exploitation of women cocoa farmers.

The reception marked the beginning of Fairtrade Fortnight in parliament, on February 26th. The extent of the gender pay gap in the global chocolate industry is deeply concerning, with women cocoa farmers earning as little as 23p per day, for their hard work.

The reception was hosted by the co-chairs of the Fairtrade All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Holly Lynch MP and Kason McCartney MP. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to hear from Rosine Bekoin, a Fairtrade cocoa farmer at the CAYAT Co-operative, Cote D’lvoire. She described how thanks to the Fairtrade certification, her co-operative can help and support other female cocoa farmers. She included how the Fairtrade Africa Women’s School of Leadership supported her in her work, helping her feel empowered and enabling her to grow her businesses.

Other speakers at the event included Rachel Turner, Director of Economic Development, Department for International Development, Sarah Champion MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee, Jemima Jewell, Head of Corporate Responsibility at John Lewis Partnership, and year 9 geography students from Saledine Nook High School in Huddersfield. The event was closed by Lord Mark Price, Chair of the Fairtrade Foundation, who emphasised the importance of the Fairtrade logo, for any person who wishes to support workers and farmers in developing countries.

The UK chocolate industry is hugely profitable, worth at least £4 billion per year. Despite the success of this industry, most cocoa farmers live in poverty.  A typical day’s take home for a cocoa farmer in Cote D’lvoire, Ghana is just 75p per day. The experience for women, is even worse. Female farmers not only earn less than their male counterparts, but also work longer hours. Only a quarter of women cocoa farmers own their own land. When considering childcare, and other domestic issues, female cocoa farmers work about a third more than men.

Fairtrade is calling for action from both government and businesses, to address this situation. Fair prices must be paid for cocoa, to ensure that a real living income can be achieved for these farmers. All policy and programme interventions in the industry should consider and address the issues facing women cocoa farmers, with targeted strategy to ensure their needs are met.

Fairtrade’s new report, ‘Chocolate’s Invisible Women,’ reveals the disparity in experience between male and female farmers, with some groups of women completely “invisible” to market research, and policy actors.

David Taylor, report author and Policy Manager at the Fairtrade Foundation emphasises the importance of the goals and targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals. There are 10 years remaining to “end poverty, support small-scale farmers and provide decent work for all will not be met unless urgent action is taken to support these ‘invisible’ women.”

I am hopeful that if we all pledge a commitment to Fairtrade, we can ensure a prosperous future for these incredibly hard-working cocoa farmers.

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