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Women take leading roles as Ivory Coast emerges from turmoil

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Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
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Women have long played a dominant role in agriculture in Ivory Coast and in the sprawling markets where most Ivorians purchase their daily necessities.

Marie Dem (C), 48, a businesswomam, her mother Fatma Kamil, 79 (L), and her daughter Khadydiatou Dem, 26, pose for a photograph after prayers in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, February 14, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Marie Dem (C), 48, a businesswomam, her mother Fatma Kamil, 79 (L), and her daughter Khadydiatou Dem, 26, pose for a photograph after prayers in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, February 14, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Now though some are now breaking through into the most important positions in government, administration and business in Ivory Coast – positions long held by males in this traditional society.

Michelle Loboue, a sub-prefect of Bouake region, poses for a photograph in Bouake, Ivory Coast February 6, 20116. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Michelle Loboue, a sub-prefect of Bouake region, poses for a photograph in Bouake, Ivory Coast February 6, 20116. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

In 2012 in the wake of a decade of civil war and political turmoil, Ivory Coast named Niale Kaba, as finance minister, the first woman to hold the post in more than a half century as an independent nation. After years of stagnation, the West African nation is now among the continent’s fastest growing economies.

Another woman, Massandje Toure-Litse, now heads the cocoa marketing board. Ivory Coast is the world’s leading producer of the chocolate ingredient, which accounts for roughly 15 percent of GDP and more than a third of foreign currency earnings.

Danielle Dona Fologo (C) wife of Ivorian politician Laurent Dona Fologo and president of a sustainable development NGO called Ivoire DD, poses for a photograph with her team members near a poster reading "I don't waste my school's tap water" in Abidjan, Ivory Coast February 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Danielle Dona Fologo (C) wife of Ivorian politician Laurent Dona Fologo and president of a sustainable development NGO called Ivoire DD, poses for a photograph with her team members near a poster reading “I don’t waste my school’s tap water” in Abidjan, Ivory Coast February 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

“We must value women with all their differences and in all the sectors of the workforce,” said Via-Juliana Akre, 41, standing beside a row of newborn babies at the clinic in the commercial capital Abidjan where she has worked as a midwife for the past decade ago.

A Reuters photo essay prepared for International Women’s Day on Tuesday captured Ivorian women in all realms of work – from gas station attendant to plastic recycler and lawyer.

 Via-Juliana Akre, a 41-year-old a nurse, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Via-Juliana Akre, a 41-year-old a nurse, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Despite some advances, however, many Ivorian women point to the challenges they continue to face.

For example, while Ivory Coast saw the appointment of a woman to the rank of general for the first time in 2012, there are still only 26 female officers in the entire army.

Marie Sassou, a 21-year-old car mechanic, poses for a photograph in the garage she works at in Bouake, Ivory Coast February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Marie Sassou, a 21-year-old car mechanic, poses for a photograph in the garage she works at in Bouake, Ivory Coast February 10, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

“There are many challenges, but the biggest is the inequality of the sexes. We are not yet considered as equal to men,” said 39-year-old Fleur Zebi.

Zebi quit her job as a travel agent in 2008 to set up her own travel agency.

 

Florance Messan, a 45-year-old lawyer, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 3, 2016. Women have long played a dominant role in agriculture in Ivory Coast and in the sprawling markets where most Ivorians purchase their daily necessities. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Florance Messan, a 45-year-old lawyer, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 3, 2016. Women have long played a dominant role in agriculture in Ivory Coast and in the sprawling markets where most Ivorians purchase their daily necessities. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

“There’s still too much injustice toward women,” she said standing in her second business, a salon that caters to men and women suffering from hair loss.

Ange Dede, a 29-year-old painter and decorator poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Ange Dede, a 29-year-old painter and decorator poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

Discrimination often starts at a young age, said Fofanan Man, 59, who began selling traditional, colorfully printed African fabric in the central city of Bouake nearly four decades ago.

Valerie Bony, 48, a BBC journalist, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 5, 2016. Women have long played a dominant role in agriculture in Ivory Coast and in the sprawling markets where most Ivorians purchase their daily necessities. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Valerie Bony, 48, a BBC journalist, poses for a photograph in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 5, 2016. Women have long played a dominant role in agriculture in Ivory Coast and in the sprawling markets where most Ivorians purchase their daily necessities. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

“Women still aren’t entirely free today. Education is the big problem for girls, because parents prefer to educate the boys first,” she said.

Natenin Konate, a 22-year-old gas station attendant, poses for a photograph in Bouake, Ivory Coast, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Natenin Konate, a 22-year-old gas station attendant, poses for a photograph in Bouake, Ivory Coast, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

(Reporting by Thierry Gouegnon and Ange Aboa; Writing by Joe Bavier Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

 

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