It’s International Women’s Day on 8th March – a celebration of women’s triumphs both small and great that have moved them further towards equality, and a rallying cry for how much there is still to do before women around the world can enjoy the same opportunities, choices and freedoms as men.
At Kuapa Kokoo, the cocoa farmers’ co-operative in Ghana that owns 45% of Divine Chocolate, the encouragement and mentoring of women has always been a priority, and thousands of women have learned income-generating skills that help bring money into the family when there is no cocoa to sell. About a third of Kuapa Kokoo’s membership (over 80,000 farmers) are women – yet, although many women have now risen to positions at national level, the proportion of women members is not yet reflected in the elected roles farmers can contest within the organisation. A survey shows that a significant cause may be the disparity in the literacy levels between men and women – illiteracy amongst the men is 65% while amongst the women it is 85%.
To address this, Kuapa Kokoo is using financing from Divine’s Producer Supporting and Development fund (PS&D) and support from the Ministry of Non Formal Education to run adult literacy classes primarily focused on women. Literacy and numeracy classes have started which are run for two hours three times a week. These quite intensive programmes have enjoyed really high attendance.
They have shown quickly how dramatic just a little learning can be. Just learning to write your name puts you in this position of being able to sign for things, and recording transactions. Learning to recognise and read a few local and common words is a step forward in negotiating your way around your world. As Lydia Dufie in Sikaman says “Now I can see which bus I need to take me home”.
When women gather for literacy lessons and skills training they learn more than what the class is teaching. It confirms to them how important and useful education is and makes them more likely to insist on their children going to school and not working on the farm. Other learning is shared too. Lucy Boatemaa of Anwona village says “Now I understand more about teenage pregnancy I want to make sure my children don’t have to go through what I had to”.
These literacy and numeracy classes will be rolled out across the membership – and if the first few lessons can have such a great impact – imagine what women can do when they have reading and writing in their grasp.