I’ve just been to Ghana for some meetings at Kuapa Kokoo - we’ve been working together on communications strategy. I haven’t been for a several months, so it is always very good to catch up with everyone. It was also great to go out to Bipoa and Bayerebon3 again and spend whole days in the villages talking with farmers and hearing how things are going, and reporting back from Divine Chocolate.
There are women’s groups in both villages – and they are clearly a real force within the community. I sat and asked a few women about their farms, their families and why they had joined Kuapa – and the obvious benefits of belonging to these vocal and supportive groups was a clear incentive. Elizabeth Antegoa lives in Bipoa where the first Kuapa women’s group was formed. She joined Kuapa Kokoo a year ago. “I wanted to be part of the women’s group, ”she says. And she describes how much she has gained from joining. “We all join together and we help each other. Together we have learned skills like making soap and screen-printing – and this helps us earn our own money.”
“I like the way women are encouraged in Kuapa Kokoo,” she adds. At the moment Elizabeth only has one room in someone else’s house. Her dream is to make enough money to have her own house with a kitchen and bedrooms. “The women’s group will help me make it happen,” she says.
I talked to Georgina Oppong in Bayerebon3. She joined Kuapa Kokoo three years ago, and said she’d joined first and foremost because “everything is fair”. Then she talked about how proud she is to belong to the local Kuapa women’s group. Together they have requested a loan from the credit union, to give them seed money for setting up their income-generating businesses. Georgina sells fish at the local market to augment her income from cocoa.
Women make up about a third of the membership of Kuapa Kokoo – and the development of the groups and the benefits they bring to women is a testament to the really proactive approach Kuapa has taken to its gender equality programme. The women are not just learning new income-generating skills alongside cocoa farming – but also really honing them. The tie-dye and batik fabrics I saw this time were considerably more sophisticated than those I saw a year ago. It seems to me that the women’s groups are creating a growing potential to bring in additional income to families and also to the organisation. It’s also clear to see that participation in the women’s groups builds women’s confidence, and they are increasingly putting themselves forward for elected positions in the cooperative – and taking on leading roles.