Getting inspired in Ivory Coast
s soon as I arrived in Ivory Coast, the warmth in the air warmed my heart. On my first day I travelled from the buzzing city of Abidjan to a completely different landscape in the north, the town of Korhogo, with red dirt roads and mango trees.
“It moved me a lot to see how this programme is really part of community life in the villages that we work in.”
It was like being taken to a totally different place. Everything was done in ‘African time’, which meant after food and after talking. In Ivory Coast things just happen in their own time. I was constantly made to feel welcome.
As programme officer for the Women in Enterprise Programme of CARE, supported by H&M Foundation, I visited the programme in Ivory Coast to get a better understanding of what is happening on the ground.
The women participating in the programme are very strong. They are all looking for something more from themselves and trying to figure out their own potential. The role models who support these women were role models for me, as well. They were these powerhouses of energy who started from humble beginnings, but have been able to build up their businesses. What I think is so beautiful is how seriously they take the role. It’s not just a title for them. They are working with women and trying to motivate and mentor them to also overcome the same difficulties that they encountered.
With the Women in Enterprise programme CARE is boosting entrepreneurship among women, which is one way to support their economic empowerment and the development of entire communities. CARE works with women in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, strengthening their organizations and providing them with access to skills training and securing access to finance to allow them to develop their enterprise.
There were two main highlights for me from this trip to Ivory Coast. In Korhogo we visited two villages. As we stepped out of the car there was a gathering of around 100 women and they all started singing a welcome song. It moved me to see how this programme is really a part of community life in the villages that CARE works in.
I also observed an incredible conversation between the women and the Chief of the village. They were talking about the obstacles they face and the women told the Chief that they needed more land if they were to be able to really develop their agricultural enterprises. They put the Chief on the spot to decide. To me that shows great strength. There was a lot of back and forth – it was very ceremonial in the way it happened, and full of energy. Each side had their say until they came to a resolution, where the Chief agreed he could give them five extra hectares of land.
Adding value in the country
Within this programme CARE is working very closely with the Ministry of Women, Protection of Children and Solidarity and I think it’s very unique that a country has a Ministry devoted to women and to their advancement, training and development. The Ministry will be adopting CARE’s training materials into their own activities, which I think shows the huge value we are adding in the country. We will also be doing a full analysis of what is being produced and where and which products are most profitable, which will help the women as they develop and grow their enterprises.
With this trip I am reminded about how important it is to meet people face to face, whether it’s colleagues in the same organisation or the women we work with. They aren’t numbers in a report or just faces in a photo, but real people touched by this programme.
By Solange Hai
Programme officer Women in Enterprise, CARE Nederland
If you would like to have more information on our work on Women’s Economic Empowerment, take on the Skillpower website.