News / Africa

Women's Vote Important Factor in Ivory Coast Elections

Educators teach female street vendors how to properly fold a ballot after marking their candidate so the ink will not smudge into multiple boxes, rendering the vote invalid
Educators teach female street vendors how to properly fold a ballot after marking their candidate so the ink will not smudge into multiple boxes, rendering the vote invalid

Multimedia

TEXT SIZE - +
Anne Look


Women represent more than 60 percent of the registered voters in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city. They are increasingly a force to be reckoned with in the country's politics. It is a trend that has not been lost on the country's presidential hopefuls, including the two remaining candidates, President Laurent Gbagbo and former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara, who will face off in a second round on November 28.

Just four days before the first round of polling, female supporters of President Gbagbo hit the streets of Abidjan, led by the group's president, Genevieve Bro-Grebe.

"We have been all over the country," said Bro-Grebe.  "We have met with everyone to sell our product, our candidate.  We are showing women how to vote. In Ivory Coast.  Seventy percent of women are illiterate.  It is difficult for them to vote, so we are going door-to-door to show them how."

Reading and writing are not the only barriers for female voters. Marie Paule Kodjo runs an Ivorian nonprofit, the Women's Committee for Elections and Reconstruction, which was instrumental in helping women register to vote nationwide.

"Women have been told that it is their father or husband who will tell them who to vote for," said Kodjo.  " We have been working so women understand that voting is a personal choice and that they should choose a candidate not based on family, gender or ethnicity but on his or her program. Some women, especially outside Abidjan, do not have the money to vote or to spend time picking up identity and voter cards.  It is an obstacle.  In certain areas affected by the war, some women are scared to vote.  Men have threatened them if they do not vote for a certain candidate."

Since before the first round of polling on October 31, the committee's educators toured Abidjan's markets -- among them one in the low-income neighborhood of Wassaka -- to show women how to cast their ballots. It is a non-partisan effort aimed at making sure their votes are not thrown out for technical reasons.

For example, educators are teaching female street vendors how to properly fold the ballot after marking their candidate so the ink will not smudge into multiple boxes, rendering the vote invalid. But educators say the effort, which is going on nationwide, is also about giving women confidence, a first step to one day getting more women in local and legislative offices that they say are still dominated by men.

Natogoman Coulibaly,  the leader of Wassaka's market women, says life has gotten more difficult, especially for the poor, and it is time for women's voices to be heard.

"They showed me how to vote and I am happy. I did not plan to vote, but now I am working with them to encourage other women," said Coulibaly.

The presidential election is meant to end nearly a decade of political crisis after a 2002-2003 civil war.

"The political situation for women is changing, largely because of the crisis Ivory Coast has experienced during which women suffered enormously.  They lost their husbands, their children.  They have been raped and attacked.  Now, women are saying enough.  It is time to be brave and get out in front," added Kodjo.

The initial round of polling on October 31 even saw Ivory Coast's first female presidential candidate, Jacqueline Oble, place eighth out of 14 candidates, though she won less than one percent of the vote.  No matter who wins the November 28 runoff, political activists say women are set to play a strong political role in the rebuilding of Ivory Coast.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid