As part of our award-winning Tackling Child Labor report in 2019, we met with several children and their families in Côte d’Ivoire. A year later, we wanted to follow up with them to see how they were getting on now.
Roméo, (who was 12 when we met him in 2019) hadn’t ever actually been involved in child labor. Yet he was at risk for the simple reason that his mother couldn’t read.
There is a correlation between adult illiteracy in a family (particularly maternal illiteracy) and instances of child labor. In addition, of course, adult illiteracy is a contributing factor to a cycle of poverty within a family, with future job opportunities or entrepreneurial potential limited by the inability to read or write.
That was exactly the position Roméo’s mother Beatriz was in. She was running a small store in her village and offering tailoring services from the front porch. Although she was a gifted seamstress she couldn’t read or write. “When clients came, I had no idea how to measure them,” she told us because she couldn’t read the numbers on the tape.
In 2018, she enrolled in a new women’s literacy program the Nestlé Cocoa Plan had set up in her village. She worked hard and finished top of the class in many areas. When we met her in 2019, she was proudly helping Roméo with his homework, pricing items in her store and taking measurements for her sewing work.
When we checked in with her recently to find out how things were going she told us that business was going well and she had now expanded her small store, while Roméo has passed another grade in school and is continuing to do well.
The impact of prevention work like women’s literacy programs must not be underestimated. By using detailed data gathered over many years, we are increasingly able to initiate activities in a way that not only supports the community in general, but that also helps prevent child labor specifically.