In honor of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Global Exchange is teaming up with farmer-owned chocolate company Divine Chocolate to celebrate the women of Divine’s farmer collective, Kuapa Kokoo. This Spring, Divine will be donating a portion of their sales to the Kuapa Kokoo’s Women’s Project; they’re teaching women cocoa farmers how to start small businesses, earn extra family income, and feel tremendous pride. You can show your support by purchasing Divine Chocolate 3.5 oz bars at the San Francisco Global Exchange Store (map) for the month of March, and we’ll give you $1.00 off!

Supporting Divine Chocolate and the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative is supporting real farmers, and not simply a chocolate company. Divine is the only Fair Trade chocolate company that is 45% owned by farmers. While being certified Fair Trade ensures that farmers receive a better price for their cocoa, company ownership gives farmers a share of Divine’s profits!

The partial liberalization of Ghana’s cocoa market in the early 1990s created a unique situation for cocoa farmers to organize in an industry where their voices were not being heard. Visionary farmer Nana Frimpong  Abrebrese organized a group of farmers to pool resources and set up a farmer’s co-op, which would trade its own cocoa, and thus manage the selling process more efficiently than the government cocoa agents. Kuapa Kokoo, which means “good cocoa growers,” was born.

In 1997, the reputable and fast-growing Kuapa Kokoo’s farmer collective had another idea. If they could manage a cocoa-farming cooperative, why not manage a chocolate company?

Divine Chocolate was born. Now a leading Fair Trade brand, Divine has given its farmers a secure source of Fair Trade income. Kuapa Kokoo invests in building schools, sinking wells and clean drinking water for villages, providing mobile medical clinics for farmers in remote growing regions, and fostering women’s income generation projects to help women earn additional income for their families when the cocoa season is over.

You can celebrate the women of Kuapa Kokoo this spring by purchasing Divine Chocolate at San Francisco’s Global Exchange Store! $1.00 off all 3.5 oz bars for the month of March.

For women, the road to equality has been a long (and continuous) struggle. Today marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. And while women in the U.S. celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the Fair Trade cocoa cooperative in Ghana, Kuapa Kokoo marked a major milestone in the cooperative’s history by electing their first woman president, Christiana Ohene Agyare.

Ms. Ohene Agyare was elected the cooperative’s president after gaining 1,270 votes out of 1,720 votes, thus making her the first woman president of Kuapa Kokoo Farmers Union (KKFU) since the union formed over 16 years ago. As you may or may not know, Kuapa Kokoo is the supplier of cocoa for Divine Chocolate and in addition is also a major shareholder in Divine Chocolate, Inc.

Ms. Agyare herself has an 11 acre cocoa farm and has been the cooperative’s Treasurer for the past four years and serves as the Recorder of her village society.

Kuapa Kokoo has strongly promoted the participation of women at every level of the organization, so the election of a female president of a true testament to the cooperative’s long term commitment to gender equality.

TransFair USA spoke with Erin Gorman, CEO of Divine Chocolate USA,

“Divine Chocolate is thrilled to share the news of this historic election with consumers and businesses in America. Cocoa plays an important role in the lives of women cocoa farmers in West Africa and through Kuapa Kokoo and Divine these same women are afforded the opportunity to have a say and an impact in the global industry. Together with women (and men) who love chocolate in America, we will continue to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farming families.”

The principle that I truly admire about the Fair Trade system is that it promotes the empowerment of women and the strong role that women play in the movement in general. This news is a strong indicator of the strides that the movement makes to ensure that women get that voice to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

So, as we reflect on Women’s Equality Day, we think about the women around the world making their own strides for equality. A big thanks to our foremothers and suffragette sisters for keeping up the good fight and giving me and my fellow ladies a chance to speak up. We still have a long ways to go, but this story shows us that we’re slowly getting there.