In doing so, participating women increase their leadership capacity and control their own businesses.
Cocoa farming is viewed as a “male activity” and resources are targeted at male farmers. But women are responsible for much of the work, including farming and providing labor for production activities to assure cocoa bean quality. CARE and Mars Wrigley have built on the success and learnings of their Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) initiative to increase women’s social and economic empowerment in cocoa-growing communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
The Women for Change model first creates VSLAs. These groups, once in place, become an entry point for four areas: financial inclusion and linkages; entrepreneurship supporting income growth and diversification; gender-equality interventions; and a healthy family curriculum that promotes early-childhood development and child protection.
On average, VSLA members have saved $63 each, and groups have saved $1,682. Beyond direct financial impacts, the Women for Change program has supported entrepreneurship across the 26 cocoa-growing communities where the program operates. These microenterprises have directly benefited at least 11,429 households, impacting an estimated 57,145 people whose livelihoods are dependent on members of VSLA groups. Finally, the program has increased women’s confidence, improved local governance, strengthened child protection, and engaged couples in dialogues to reduce gender-based violence.