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08 MAR 2013

Mars, Mondelez, Nestle are leaving women farmers behindOxfam campaigns at chocolate company headquarters on International Women’s Day

An investigation into four countries where Mars, Mondelez and Nestle purchase cocoa has shown that many women farmers face discrimination, unequal pay and hunger, leaving the companies’ social policies exposed as weak and needing work, says international agency Oxfam.

Oxfam campaigned today at the headquarters and retail locations of these three food companies on International Women’s Day to urge them to address gender inequality in their supply chains. The three companies control 40 per cent of the chocolate market and purchase one third of all cocoa, which is mostly grown by small farmers in developing countries. Oxfam’s research shows that Mars, Mondelez and Nestle are doing very little to address poor conditions faced by the women who grow cocoa.

Oxfam’s investigation into cocoa supply chains in Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ivory Coast revealed that:

• Women cocoa growers are often paid less than men even though they are critical to the quality and productivity of cocoa.
• Women working in cocoa fields and processing plants suffer substantial discrimination and inequality. For example, one worker in Indonesia told Oxfam she is made to work without a contract and is called “an animal” by her supervisor but has no way to complain. A worker at a cocoa processing factory in Indonesia told Oxfam that all female workers were fired after a few demanded equal treatment and pay.
• Women working in company supply chains in developing countries continue to be denied advances in wealth, status or opportunity.
• Women cocoa farmers have less access than men to land, credit, trainings and tools like fertilizers or irrigation systems.
• Company sustainability programs have not adequately focused on addressing issues faced by women.
 
“All three companies have launched major projects to improve cocoa sustainability and have committed to increasing the amount of certified cocoa that they purchase,” said Kalina Tsang, Senior Manager of the Hong Kong Programme Unit of Oxfam. “Companies deserve credit for this work. But these efforts are piecemeal at best and women are often an afterthought. For decades companies have put women first in their advertisements, it is time for them to do the same for the women who grow their ingredients.”

Although the companies do not control or employ them directly, Oxfam is calling on Mars, Mondelez and Nestle to lead an aggressive effort to support and protect the rights of the millions of women worldwide who grow the cocoa essential for their products. Specifically, Oxfam has called on the companies to:

1. “Know and show” how women are treated in their value chains by launching third party assessments and publishing the data,
2. Commit to adopt a “plan of action” to address the findings of these assessments that will increase opportunities for women growers and address inequality in pay and working conditions,
3. Engage with and influence other powerful public and private actors including governments and cocoa certifiers to address gender inequality.

Oxfam has given companies a long list of specific steps that can meet these goals including increasing trainings for women, promoting female recruitment and leadership of farming cooperatives and requiring suppliers to provide a living wage to all workers.

Notes to editors:
Behind the Brands website: http://www.behindthebrands.org/en
Media briefing on gender and cocoa (English version only): http://www.oxfam.org.hk/content/98/content_14870tc.pdf

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About Oxfam
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Shirley Chan
Assistant Communications Officer
Telephone: +852 3120-5281
Email: shirley.chan@oxfam.org.hk