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

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

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid