In most developing countries, gender equity has become not just a human and social goal but also an economic goal. In Côte d’Ivoire, the economy has experienced strong growth of about seven per cent since 2010. The economic outlook for Côte d’Ivoire remains favourable, but care should be taken owing to the many external and internal risks. As Côte d’Ivoire is seeking to achieve economic emergence, reducing discrimination against women could generate benefits in the neighborhood of USD 6 billion to USD 10 billion, or between one third and half of the country’s current revenues, according to the fifth report on the economic situation in Côte d’Ivoire issued by the World Bank.
The report showed that the stakes are high, confirming the results of many international studies and experiences which have been conducted in recent years. It also affirms that the success of the industrial countries and a number of emerging economies is partially explained by the elimination of inequalities affecting women. Gender equality in Côte d’Ivoire has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in addition to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Although approved legislations are not fully enforced, good progress has been made.
Several policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights were adopted including the establishment of the Equality and Gender Directorate within the Ministry of the Family, Women and Social Affairs in 2006. It is responsible for coordinating government activities in the fight against gender discrimination. In April 2009, the government also adopted the National Policy on Equal Opportunities, Equity and Gender to promote the consideration of gender in the public and private sectors. In spite of all the government’s encouragement of full participation by women in business, there is still a bias among employers to hiring women, whom they consider less dependable than men.
Women are underrepresented in most professions and in the managerial sector as a whole. Some women also encounter difficulty in obtaining loans, as they cannot meet the lending criteria mandated by banks, including title to a house and production of profitable cash crops, specifically coffee and cocoa. Furthermore, men and women performing the same task do not get paid the same amount of money in most informal formal businesses in Côte d’Ivoire. Generally, men continue to dominate managerial positions and enjoy the most career mobility, usually due to a higher level of education and connections with other businessmen.
The government should be able to control this situation if it does not want to miss out on the great opportunities and immense benefits the country can gain if women were to participate equally and actively in various business sectors. The promotion of gender equity has the potential to help Côte d’Ivoire successfully transition to economic emergence, but the road ahead is full of obstacles. First, the necessary effort must be invested in eliminating the many existing profound inequalities. Even if this is successful, the adjustment costs must then be managed to avoid a backlash. However, in the end, there is no doubt that the results will be worth the effort.
The first steps to this end are first to strengthen laws and policies to combat violence against women, including by establishing awareness-raising campaigns and training programmes for legal personnel and health professionals. Second, law enforcement authorities must ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. Third, the government needs to promote access to education for girls by making schooling compulsory up to the age of 15 and by taking steps to encourage girls to enroll in higher education. Fourth, women must be guaranteed access to healthcare services, including by promoting access to family planning, especially in rural areas.
Beyond the action by the government, a transformational change in people’s negative perception of women and their abilities to contribute to business must be achieved. Having all these rights sufficiently granted to women, Côte d’Ivoire will be in a better position to speak about economic growth that leads to building a middle-income nation. In that case, women will be entitled to decision-making positions in various types of businesses. Their ability to own land and property will be stronger, which will lead to a state where female entrepreneurship will be an essential pillar of the country’s economy.