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The opportunities for women to contribute to Africa’s development have been in sharp focus this week at the African Development Bank ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8.
This issue was captured by Florence Kouadio, an Ivorian storyteller, during the Bank’s celebrations on Thursday, March 5 in Abidjan. “Women can be presidents, bank directors, entrepreneurs, and can drive the African continent forward. Women have a right to be decision-makers, and they are doing it,” said Kouadio.
Using her storytelling technique, she demonstrated that Africa was changing to embrace women’s empowerment. “Many girls are now going to school unlike before when they remained at home to do household chores as boys pursued education. More women are speaking out against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, which is prevalent in many African nations,” said the award-winning artist.
For further progress to be made, support is needed from governments. Patricia Anoma Cissé, technical counsellor to Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Industry and Mining, observed the need for formulation of policies that benefit women and communities at large. “We have to be very deliberate on making plans with women in mind. We have to work together with them to identify their needs and how these can be met because their participation in policy formulation processes is participation in development,” said Anoma Cissé.
She cited policies in her country that have encouraged women to come together, forming one of the largest networks, a body of farmers from across the country, which provides food for the entire nation.
The National Federation of Croppers Cooperatives, supported by the Bank, is now marketing products for its members, and consequently supplying different kinds of food items throughout the nation. “Our members are now economically empowered. They are able to earn good income and support their families,” remarked Colette Irié Lou, the group’s chairperson.
Statistics from World Bank indicate that 75% of women in the country’s rural areas live below the poverty line. “With support to establish income generating activities, women in my country, especially in the villages, can be self-sufficient just as I have become,” said Irié Lou.