The Cotton made in Africa Initiative (CmiA) supports 25 women’s cooperatives in northern Côte d’Ivoire. Inside one year, 1,250 women and 12,500 family members are set to profit from financial start-up aid in cooperation with the German Investment and Development Company (DEG) and the Ivoire Coton cotton firm. The funds will help the women take a step towards financial independence. A social media campaign organised by the C&A fashion company is the driving force behind this project.
In many parts of Africa, patriarchal social structures in which women are primarily responsible for supplying families with food prevail. Many Ivoirian women are organising into cooperatives independently of their husband in hopes of increasing their financial autonomy and self-reliance. In groups of 50 to 100 members, they plant vegetables and rice, raise livestock and sell their products at the market. This income gives them some economic freedom and ensures their families have access to enough food.
In this new social project, Cotton made in Africa is consciously interfacing with these local structures. To strengthen the role of women, 25 women’s cooperatives in the Boundiali region in northern Côte d’Ivoire will receive a financial subsidy. “We will use the money to buy more agricultural equipment, high quality seeds and — if needed — fertilisers, and we will produce compost soil”, says Karidja Thomas, chairwoman of the cooperative Djiguiya Kabada. Also, training is offered to provide the women with the business knowledge they need in areas such as how to organise a company well and conduct successful negotiations. Currently every woman who is a member of a cooperative earns around 77 euros a year. The new project will add an additional 45 to 70 euros per year in future. This will considerably improve the living conditions of these women and their families.
James Shikwati, a member of the Aid by Trade Foundation Board of Trustees: “80 percent of all agricultural goods in Africa are produced by women, yet they earn only 10 percent of the income. African women are more than just the backbone of food production though; they make a considerable contribution to the cohesion and well-being of entire families. Supporting them makes good socio-economic sense, especially given the fact that they have been largely ignored for a long time.”
Cotton made in Africa’s participation in this project was made possible by C&A, one of the initiative’s demand partners. In a Christmas cam-paign in December 2011, the fashion company called upon its social media community to select from three social organisations. CmiA took the lead with a clear margin and can now use the prize money to support the women’s cooperatives in Côte d’Ivoire.
To date Cotton made in Africa has initiated four public private part-nership projects with a focus on promoting the education infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa. The project in Cote d’Ivoire is the first explicitly directed at strengthening women’s rights.