Supporting female candidates in Côte d’Ivoire’s elections

We have recently held a training for female candidates in Côte d’Ivoire’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

The two-day training brought together 30 candidates in Abidjan this month. It aimed to improve their knowledge on issues like civic engagement, Ivorian political life, and challenges to increasing female representation in decision-making bodies.

The women taking part also learned how to compose and deliver effective campaign speeches. They found out more about the different stages of an election campaign and the tools and strategies that are needed to run a successful one, including fundraising.

Parliamentary elections in Côte d’Ivoire are scheduled for 18 December 2016, however there are very few female candidates. National statistics also show women are underrepresented across almost all decision-making bodies. They make up less than 10% of the National Assembly and only 10 of 197 mayors are women. At regional councils just 1 out of 31 seats is occupied by a woman, while there are currently only 9 female ministers out of 36 in government.

“The fact is that the system, for so many years has favoured men against women. We even have situations where fellow women say they would rather vote for a man than a woman. It is disappointing”, said Anidie Ohou, an opposition candidate from the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Candidates felt the training could be a useful starting point for challenging the status quo.

“I found the group activities very useful”, said Obou Osso Yohou, one of women involved. “I am not contesting in this election because I didn’t get the nomination by my party. But I am confident I will use the skills gained in the future.”

Many of the women, like independent candidate Alice Souba, spoke of being overlooked by their political parties during nominations.

“Without the support of the party machine, it is impossible to mount a meaningful challenge for a position. Around here, election time is like harvest time. Voters want something from each and every candidate. What chances do I have against a government minister? None.”

This training was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) as part of our project with the African Union, which we have been implementing in Côte d’Ivoire since 2015. One of its aims is to mobilise women and girls to get involved in elections.