Message to Côte d'Ivoire's Women: Get Out the Vote

Speeches Shim

Promoting women’s involvement in the democratic process
Women march for peaceful elections, telling Ivoirian youth to avoid rumors and misinformation.
Women encourage each other to take part in elections
“It is because we went out to vote that our husbands and children were killed, and we lost everything. We don’t want to get involved.”

November 2015—The escalation of violence after the disputed 2010 presidential elections led to the worst humanitarian crisis in Côte d'Ivoire's history. Violence devastated families across the country, with an estimated 3,000 deaths, numerous arrests and hundreds of thousands forced to flee as internally displaced persons or refugees.

The deadly conflict and the ensuing long-term social divisions negatively impacted women’s perceptions of electoral processes and remained at the root of their reluctance to participate in the 2015 election cycle.

“It is because we went out to vote that our husbands and children were killed, and we lost everything. We don’t want to get involved,” said one member of a women’s group.

Recent reports from civil society observers suggested a very low turnout during the voter registration process, in particular among women, confirming this common sentiment. Voter registration is a critical step in the electoral process as only registered voters had access to the polls in October.

In an effort to alleviate fears regarding upcoming elections and encourage women to participate in the registration process, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, partnered with the Fédération des Associations de Femmes de Daloa, an association of 120 women’s groups, bringing together over 2,000 women from Daloa and surrounding areas. In June, the association organized a diverse series of events—including training sessions, dances and theater skits—aimed at raising awareness of the importance of women’s contributions to the democratic process.

A women’s soccer match was the highlight of the campaign, bringing together a team from the women’s association and a team from local media houses (five local radio stations and the local office of U.N. radio) to share in a favorite Ivorian pastime. Messages encouraging peaceful elections and women’s participation were communicated throughout the event to a crowd of over 1,000 people, primarily women.

“The team representing the Fédération won the friendly soccer match, but all the women of Daloa were winners through these events as they know now that their actions can help ensure peaceful elections,” said Diarra Khady, president of the Fédération des Associations de Femmes de Daloa.

Following the match, the association organized a Mother’s Day parade that gathered about 7,000 people in the public square in Daloa, including 5,000 women from the town and surrounding villages, to honor Ivorian mothers and further promote messages of peace and participation.

The events equipped attendees to encourage other women to participate in the electoral process, while USAID continued to support the initiative in the run-up to the October elections.


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