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Women’s political participation and representation in Côte d’Ivoire

A woman has her finger dipped ink after voting in legislative by-elections in Grand Laho, Côte d'Ivoire Image: UN/Hien Macline

As in most African countries, gender inequalities remain a major challenge to human development in Côte d’Ivoire . Though women’s and girls’ condition significantly improved since Côte d’Ivoire’s independence, they still face challenges, especially in health, education, labour, access to home ownership and justice, entrepreneurship, political representation and inclusiveness, that negatively impact women’s empowerment.

In order to address these challenges, Côte d’Ivoire authorities launched an innovative, inclusive, participative and non-partisan program in 2011: Côte d’Ivoire’s Female Skills Compendium (Compendium des Compétences Féminines de Côte d’Ivoire - COCOFCI). The main objectives of this program are to strengthen the gender dimension at all levels and in political, economic, and social governance, strengthen women’s political participation and representation, provide useful and timely information for gender mainstreaming in recruitment and/or appointment to government decision-making positions and to strengthen women’s contribution to the country’s socioeconomic transformation. Six years after it was launched, Côte d’Ivoire’s Female Skills Compendium has undergone an independent evaluation.

On 1 June Côte d’Ivoire’s National Day for the Restitution of  the Evaluation Report on the COCOFCI was attended by 500 delegates, and co-chaired by the First Deputy Chairperson of Côte d’Ivoire’s National Assembly – H.E. Hon. Jeanne Pheumond – and the Special Advisor to the Head of State Coordinator of the COCOFCI – Euphrasie Kouassi Yao. Several encouraging aspects were emphasised at the meeting. Firstly,  the relevance of this innovative mechanism – which is in line with the 2003 Maputo Protocol; the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 16, and also with Aspiration 6 of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for the socioeconomic transformation of Africa – which Côte d’Ivoire could successfully share with the other African countries. Secondly, the mechanism’s efficiency, which is demonstrated by the increasing number of its members (12,000 women from all social and professional backgrounds to this day, and mostly from urban areas), the issuing of the first directory of Ivorian high level senior women, the guidance of a growing number of female candidates to run for the legislative elections (from 105 in 2011 to 328 in 2016), the appointment of a number of women members of the COCOFCI in public institutions (30 % of the members of the Economic and Social Council, 21 % of the members of the Government, etc.), the drafting of legislative proposals to strengthen the gender dimension in the implementation and in the interpretation of the Constitution of November 2016, the contribution to the enhancement of women’s occupational integration. Finally, the mechanism’s effectiveness, which was confirmed by the institutional and financial audits undertaken in 2016.

In his remarks, while acknowledging these achievements in gender mainstreaming in Côte d’Ivoire thanks to the COCOFCI, International IDEA’s representative made a few recommendations in order to improve its impact, which included the need for the Compendium to get closer to women living in rural areas. Furthermore, the imperative to develop a more systematic work in strengthening women’s political participation and representation through the development of women’s civic education (especially for young urban and rural women), intra parties’ dialogue on gender and women’s empowerment, and gender mobilisation in restoring confidence and peace in the volatile and fragmented context, which defines the Ivorian society by 2020 (Agenda 2020 for Peace). Finally, the necessity for the Government – with the support of its partners – to institutionalise the COCOFCI in order to make it more sustainable and build on the outcomes on the medium and long term. The meeting’s participants have asked International IDEA to provide technical support and comparative experience in view to implementing these recommendations.

For International IDEA, the evaluation of women’s political participation and representation in Côte d’Ivoire was followed on 2 June by a consultation with a group of eighty female leaders (nationally and locally elected officials, political parties’ representatives, members of the National Independent Electoral Commission, government’s senior officers, civil servants, entrepreneurs, farmers, etc). The consultation aimed at introducing International IDEA and its action n promoting and strengthening gender more specifically to the participants, and at collecting their expectations and identifying the outline of a potential joint program. Before the consultation took place, a questionnaire had been submitted on the evaluation of women’s political participation and representation in Côte d’Ivoire through the implementation of the Constitution of November 8, 2016. The consultation’s discussions and the processing of the questionnaire helped getting a more accurate understanding of Ivorian women’s expectations in political participation and representation. Three main areas of focus have been identified for a potential three-year COCOFCI-International IDEA joint work program: generating regular and systematic knowledge on women’s participation and gender mainstreaming in Côte d’Ivoire; strengthening women’s capacities in their participation in electoral processes and the development of a peace agenda (including security forces’ gender dimension); advocating for the voting of the law proposals aimed at strengthening gender in the implementation and interpretation of the Constitution of November 2016. 

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About the authors

Maurice Mboula Jean-Claude Didier Enguelegue
Senior Programme Officer, Africa and West Asia
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