19 July 2012

Cote d'Ivoire: Ivorian First Lady Dominique Ouattara's Speech World Cocoa Foundation

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I am very happy to be with you today in Washington, DC for this meeting which testifies to our collective action against child trafficking and exploitation on cocoa plantations.

First of all, I would like to thank the various speakers who preceded me at this forum, for their kind words about me.

Mr. Daouda DIABATÉ, Ambassador of Côte d'Ivoire in the United States, and Mr. Bill Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation.

Mr.Guyton, I welcome the signature of this Memorandum of Understanding which will enable us to harmonize and coordinate our respective programs to fight against child exploitation in cocoa production.

It is certain that together, we will be stronger, and better able to insure a brighter future for our children, by allowing them to take their places on school benches instead of on cocoa plantations.

I would also like to thank you most sincerely for the honor you have accorded me in giving me this prestigious award. Your institution, the World Cocoa Foundation, is the symbol of social development promotion in cocoa growing communities.

So, is it with appreciation and gratitude that I accept the prize you offer me in acknowledgement of my commitment to the well-being of children. I also accept this prize in the name of all of the Ivorian mothers and fathers who dream of a better, safer future for their children; a future filled with quality education and fair economic opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen, Today's meeting is an important moment for me, in that it is taking place after Côte d'Ivoire's recent reclassification just after the reclassification of Côte d'Ivoire from Tier 3 country to a Tier 2 in its progress in the fight against child exploitation and child labor.

This meeting also allows me to express my views on my personal commitment and that of my country to fight against the atrocity of child exploitation.

It is an opportunity for me to publically thank my husband, President Alassane OUATTARA, who has translated his determination to fight against child exploitation into firm policy decisions and actions, including the establishment of the Cacao-Coffee Council earlier this year, and setting the price of cocoa to allow farmers to earn the type of fair wage that will enhance their ability to participate in and benefit from the cocoa value chain, and effectively take more children out of the fields, and put them back in the classrooms, where they belong.

For me, the fight against child exploitation, and its eradication -- in all its forms-- is chief among the priorities I have set for myself as First Lady.

In fact, on November 3rd, 2011, when I was appointed head of the National Oversight Committee on child trafficking, exploitation, and labor, I officially made the commitment to fight to end child exploitation in our country.

This cause is a fundamental one for me, because, as a mother and activist for the rights of children, and as First Lady, I could not let this evil continue depriving our children of their tenderest and best years, and ruining their future.

With the Committee that I chair and the Inter- ministerial Committee, represented today by Minister Raymonde Coffie, we have begun to work and have developed a National Action Plan against trafficking in children.

- As early as August 2012, we will launch an extensive communication at the national level that will involve all media, in order to raise Ivorian public awareness, including among the parents of our children, and especially targeting our farmers.

- We will also organize a seminar with the district and regional-level officials (prefects), to invite them to join in the fight, and provide us exact figures that will enable us to develop reliable statistics on this scourge.

As local authorities, they are close to the people and will effectively relay our message in the field.

- Within the framework of monitoring and evaluation activities, which is an essential mission of the National Oversight Committee, we will conduct field visits to areas of cocoa production, to implementation establish of and some assess the programs in progress, in the fight against child labor.

This National Action Plan will be implemented through 2014, and will enable us to significantly reduce child trafficking in cocoa production.

We are aware that we still have a long way to go to achieve the complete eradication of the child trafficking, labor, and exploitation, but the award that I receive today will strengthen our determination, and encourage us to Ladies realize even and better results.

gentlemen, this meeting also gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to all the actors who help us through their involvement. Among them are the national and international organizations, technical and financial partners, NGOs, civil society organizations, media, local communities, and all community stakeholders in the fight.

Indeed, given the gravity phenomenon, a collective and of the energetic response is required, and it is hand in hand that we can make the exploitation of children a bad memory, a thing of the past.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear members of the World Cocoa Foundation, No tradition, no custom, nothing should ruin the future of our children. The place of children is at school, not on the farms. Let's protect them today against all forms of exploitation.

Thank you.

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