Every decision we make as a business today is done with a vision of a better future — and not just our future. Women provide 45 percent of the labor in the cocoa industry, yet they rarely have access to the training programs and education to support them. At Mars, we have a commitment to women, backed by bold ambition and matched by decisive action. We aspire to create truly beneficial financial programs to help improve the working lives of women in our Cote d’Ivoire cocoa-producing communities.
The DOVE® Chocolate partnership with CARE, a leading humanitarian organization focused on eradicating poverty, launched in 2015, beginning with the development and evolution of microlending to small female-driven enterprises in cocoa-farming communities. This established the CARE Village Savings & Loan Associations (VSLA) methodology. Today, the VSLAs operate in 39 communities in Cote d’Ivoire with thousands of members, 80 percent of whom are women. The VSLAs are essential to help provide loans and access to local finance institutions so women can build their own businesses. The program benefits the community at large because the resources are then reinvested locally.
We recently expanded our partnership with CARE to invest in women’s futures by breaking ground on a new market in the village of Gueyo, where many VSLA members sell their goods on a daily basis. This physical structure will help bolster an existing marketplace where female entrepreneurs can grow their businesses. It also will be an intersection of commerce and community, giving women access to much-needed infrastructure while shaping their abilities to build wealth and gain financial independence.
The Gueyo Marketplace was announced in 2019 on International Women’s Day (March 8) and is slated to open in July 2019.
This new marketplace is a prime example of the financial freedom we have to run our business with heart, because we are a family-owned business. This allows us to act today for the world we want tomorrow.