This International Women’s Day it seems only right to talk about the many women involved in crafting the delicious artisan bars that we love so much.
This past year, we’ve welcomed a number of female makers. From Amedei’s Cecilia Tessieri and Cynthia at Soma, to Lisi Montoya of Shattell, Luisa at Luisa Abram and Brits Chantal Coady at Rococo and Ama of Lucocoa, all of these women are crafting incredible bars. And even while they may not been the principle chocolate maker women play a pivotal role for a number of different makers. Dahlia at Fruition, Frederike at Chocolate Tree and Barbara at Pacari, Joanna at Pump Street are just a few.
It’s not just about the makers, but the people growing the cocoa beans. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, women have historically had little economic status or independence of any kind. Through its Femmes de Virunga bar program, Original Beans is empowering women in the region.
The chocolate maker is providing women with training in how to cultivate and produce high quality cacao so that they can become producers themselves. Original Beans also runs literacy and leadership courses to further equip local women with the skills they need.
And even better, women in the region have the opportunity to put these skills to use. The women’s co-operative runs its own radio station and seedling nursery. As part of its ‘One Bar One Tree’ policy Original Beans also donates cacao trees to local women for them to sell or cultivate. Now, even the most isolated women farmers can benefit from the community and expertise of the women’s cooperative and enjoy a long term and fully sustainable livelihood with all the economic advantages that come with this.
Shawn Aksinosie is another maker involved in raising the profile of women around the world. Through is Chocolate University program in Tanzania he funds an Empower Girls club at local schools. The club aims to increase the retention and graduation rate of female students.
Askinosie has also pioneered a Sustainable Lunch Program. As part of this, Askinosie purchases local premium foods (Aromatic Premium Keyla rice in Tanzania, Tableya Cocoa Rounds in the Philippines) and sells them to people and speciality shops in the States. All of the profits are then used to fund school lunches for children in Tanzania and the Philippines. Since 2011 Aksinosie has provided more than 315 000 meals through the scheme. Malnutrition has decreased and academic performance and attendance in both the regions has increased!