“A Movement of Solidarity” for Women in Cocoa

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Author Prisca Ayema

Social Development Manager
World Cocoa Foundation

In 2019, a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) program, co-funded by a WCF member and USAID, was started in Touih, San-Pedro region in southwestern Côte d’Ivoire, to enable cocoa-growing communities and women to build capacity in financial education, to improve gender equality in cocoa-growing households and communities, and to increase and diversify income resources. To date, more than 140 VSLAs have been set up and boast a total of 3,917 members in the locality. Total savings amount to USD 380,370 and a credit of USD 204,156 was recorded. Due to these promising results, the oldest two VSLAs in the community have obtained higher loans from a microfinance institution for a total amount of USD 12,476.

On March 10, 2022, VSLA participants celebrated International Women’s Day in Touih. This ceremony was an opportunity to present the achievements obtained in the locality, and hear the testimonies of VSLA members such as Hili Ya, who acted as spokesperson for her community. “The celebration of International Women’s Rights Day has a particular meaning because, more than a commemoration, this day constitutes for us women, a privileged moment, an exceptional opportunity to magnify our sisters, wives, mothers, colleagues, daughters, and to remind everyone of the contribution of women in building a better world (…),” she said. “As a concrete result (…) on us and our communities, I can say that today, thanks to the training and coaching received in this project, I am a woman, and I am proud of it. We were in the darkness, now we are in the light; we were in ignorance, now we have knowledge; we were marginalized, now we are considered; we were without resources, now we are autonomous; we did not have access to speech now our voice carries and has value. VSLAs have allowed us to save regularly and have easy access to loans that not only strengthen our income-generating activities and sources of income, but also create a movement of solidarity between us women within our communities.” The VSLAs train members in financial education, gender, parental education, management of the family business, entrepreneurship, female leadership, and networking for the marketing of products, achieving concrete results.

Mr. Naon Nimalou, another VSLA member, added: “Before, I had huge worries at home, because I did all the family expenses on my own. Schooling, medical expenses, food, planting, clothing, (…) everything was at my expense, and I could not get by. Recently, I joined one of the VSLA groups in my area which was initially reserved for women. In this group, we received training in family business management which I participated with my two wives. This training taught me to include my spouses in the management of the family. Spending decisions are discussed and prioritized together, and the same goes for family projects. I share information with them, and they help me as much as possible by joining forces to raise funds since they are also members of a VSLA.”

Mr. Nimalou continued,” Recently, on their recommendation, to reduce food expenses I created a vegetable garden near the house which we use for our cooking and the rest of the harvest is sold to meet other expenses. The most impressive thing is that I told them of my wish to buy land for the construction of a house. My wives joined forces to buy this land and presented me with the documentation. Today, I am a fulfilled and very happy man.”