I’m particularly pleased to take the floor tonight before this host of personalities on the opportunity of the 20th Salon du Chocolat. In favor of this opening night, I would like to thank the organizers of this event, Mrs. Sylvie Douce and Mr. François Jeannet, for choosing me to be the godmother of this beautiful exhibition.
I would also like to congratulate them, because over the years, the Salon du Chocolat has become a real institution and a World reference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My country, la Côte d’Ivoire is proud to be taking part in this platform dedicated to chocolate. As the world’s largest cocoa producer, this show is for us an excellent showcase, allowing us to exhibit the attractions of our cocoa to the whole World.
With an annual production of one million one hundred fifty thousand tons, our cocoa growing fits a perspective of sustainability, meeting the recommended ethical values.
However, the accession of my husband at the presidency in 2011, we had to face a troublesome reality, namely child labor in cocoa plantations. Indeed, we have seen that children were working in the Ivorian cocoa sector in 2011.
To combat this scourge, the President of the Republic has therefore set up two Committees for Fight Against Child Labor: the Inter-ministerial Committee and the National Oversight Committee that I have been tasked to lead voluntarily. I accepted with pleasure this heavy task because, the issue of Children’s Rights has always guided my commitments and motivated my actions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When in 1998 I created Children of Africa Foundation, I did it in order to change things, to provide to every child of Africa a better future.
Over the years, I have seen the misery, destitution and despair. I have also seen the comfort, joy and hope that a outstretched hand can arouse.
With the Foundation, I have realized that a committed action in favor of the underprivileged, be it even tiny, has always positive Impact. I realized that no action was futile and that we could indeed change things. Thus you understand my revolt against child labor in cocoa plantations.
From then on, I decided to conduct a real struggle against this scourge. The fight against child labor has become the number one priority of my actions as First Lady. My commitment is a commitment of the heart, but also a useful institutional commitment to our country, because Côte d’Ivoire was been blamed because of the use of children in the plantations.
Thus, the National Oversight Committee and its partners, including agencies of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and companies in the cocoa sector, have pooled their efforts to keep children away from plantations.
Our actions have aroused a national awareness, and companies involved in the cocoa and chocolate have decided to support us by granting significant investments in:
– The construction and rehabilitation of schools close to major cocoa plantations;
– As well as the implementation of specific programs to increase the farmers’ income. I would like to sincerely thank them.
Our outcry has also allowed:
– The signature in October 2013, of two bilateral agreements with Mali and Burkina Faso to fight against child trafficking in our common borders;
– as well as the signing and adoption of several important legal texts in 2014.
We also undertook a national communication campaign and training of prefects and all those involved in this issue. All these measures have allowed Côte d’ivoire to be reclassified by the US Department of State to the upper level in the fight against child labor.
Of course, there is still much to do, but we are determined to fight for the total elimination of this scourge.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ivorian cocoa is quality cocoa, which has always been delighting consumers of chocolate. We are getting down, maintaining this quality label, in accordance with the ethical standards of sustainable cocoa without child labor.
To conclude my remarks, I would like to extend my heartfelt encouragement to « Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque » partner of the Salon du Chocolat, which aims to give a new heart to sick kids. I admire the work they are doing to save our children and I want to wish full success to the operation “Cœurs Chocolat” (Chocolat Hearts).