School Class in Côte d'Ivoire

Birth certificates - and why they can be crucial to avoid child labor

Today, June 12, is the World Day Against Child Labor. As a company deeply rooted in cocoa origin countries and communities, especially in West Africa, we are still faced with the fact that children are working on cocoa farms, predominantly in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. That is why we committed to eradicating child labor from our supply chain by 2025. Supporting parents in formally registering their children is one element in a portfolio of actions we do.

Not all children in Côte d’Ivoire are lucky enough to have a birth certificate. This is a serious problem for the further education of the child, because without a birth certificate, they are unable to finish their education. In cocoa growing communities this issue is one reason which keeps children out of school and working on the cocoa plantations instead. Children working, instead of going to school is considered part of the International Labour Organisation’s definition of the worst forms of child labor.

Children with Birth Certificates in Côte d'Ivoire
Children in Côte d'Ivoire showing their birth certificates

Birth certificate and school kits - two ways tackling the root cause: farmer poverty

That is why Barry Callebaut is supporting parents financially to organize birth certificates for their children. In 2015/16 this amounted to 214 birth certificates, some of which were provided many years after the child was born. In addition, we also provided school kits, containing a  backpack, pencil case, ruler, notebooks, and pens. This allowed children who could not afford the school equipment, to go to school. In 2015/16, Barry Callebaut provided a total of 11,983 school kits.

Fantastic news is that the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Education in Cote d’Ivoire have recently kicked off a national initiative to register 1,165,000 million primary school students who do not have a birth certificate. This will hopefully prove to be a structural solution to one of the drivers of children working the cocoa fields.

Hand over of a school kit
Handing over a Barry Callebaut school kit to a child in Côte d'Ivoire

The journey is not over…

Tackling farmer poverty is a long-term solution to child labor. In the short term increasing access to schooling for children is one factor to support our goal to eradicate child labor from our supply chain by 2025.  There is still a big part of the way to go - there are still too many children involved in the worst form of child labor. But June 12, the World Day Against Child Labor, is a good moment in time to pause, reflect and reiterate our commitment to tackling the important issue of child labor - to build the basis for the future generation of cocoa farmers.

Christiaan Prins

Christiaan Prins

VP Corporate Communications for Barry Callebaut. Believer in the urgent business case for sustainability. Married, father of two. Ph.D. in political science. Cyclist, sailer and Fender Strat player.

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