Child cocoa workers ‘exploited’ and enslaved

Having just watched re-runs on TV of two of my favorite films (Have you ever drawn up a list of your top 10? Try it, it is fun and it can potentially help you rekindle some energy!)… The two films are Frequency and Pay it forward – the latter  finished at 1.15am & yes I had to creep into bed. Films/Media has the power to inspire, expand your mind through seeing others experiences and watch creativity unfold.

These inspiring pieces got me thinking about whether there really is a thing called, ‘people power’? In the case of Pay it forward – If we all could help each other through a ripple effect, maybe it would make the world a better place? …are we personally empowered to drive change in society?

Last night I was watching BBC Newsnight, see: It featured a follow-up from an article by Humphrey Hawksley back in April 2007. He had traveled deep into the plantations of West Africa. It was a revelation in many ways.

1. West Africa produces 50% of the world’s Cocoa
2. An agreement called the Cocoa agreement is falling short of its targets.
3. There appears to be no project momentum.
4. Children have become slaves
5. The image of a child’s open wound with flies feeding inside it is haunting and disturbing.
6. Whilst people enjoy their chocolate, manufacturers appear to be enjoying rich profits.

The Newsnight feature last night promoted school children from I believe Becton in London to both write and perform a play.

In addition, Newsnight assembled in a studio, a selection of these children to ask a representative of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Association, known as BCCCA a series of questions.

The BCCA representative tried her best to show empathy and suggested that the situation is complex. A couple of the children asked why more could not be done, why was change so slow and why targets for change are being missed? I looked at the innocent faces of the children desperately trying to understand the heart of the matter from the rep. Their faces were expression-less but I knew that in their mind that all they could see was the word, WHY in big bold letters.

Why indeed?
Is it the manufacturers who could do more?
Is the situation complex because of politics or lack of people / project teams being positioned?
Why is there a reluctance to speed things up?

I return to my original question: ‘Do we as consumers really have enough power to drive home a change’?

I considered what if I could design a ‘Pay it forward’ strategy? We could all avoid chocolate for a week! Or, we could convince supermarkets to start a boycott. Some might say this will ‘hurt’ the people that we are trying to help. Others may suggest that the might of the manufacturers is too great to take on and that they are immune and protected in a lap of luxury wrapping.

Can people power work?
It has to be through a sustained momentum.
The programme quoted Nelson Mandela, saying that if all the children in the world got together, then maybe we could change the world.

So here is a challenge, use the reply form at my blog site or the following petition link: –  to see if we can get 1M+ people to convince  the chocolate manufacturers to allocate a percentage of their earnings and set-up a special project team to resolve this issue – then we can prove that we can change the world together.

Categories: 2007, Anti-Poverty, Anti-Slavery, Corporate Responsibility

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