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10. October 2019

Ivory Coast, Western Africa: A hut for peace

The region along the River Mano in western Africa was the scene of civil wars and armed rebellions for decades. In all of these conflicts, there was a very high incidence of sexualised violence and the effects of this violence can still be felt today. In 2018, medica mondiale started working with partner organisations in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast to help counteract the devastating violence and send some signals of hope.

Mariam Traoré* is selling lollipops and juice. Her sales are now so good she can pay her rent out of her income and even put a little money aside. Just one year ago Mariam was financially dependent on her husband, who was beating and mistreating her. When he left, abandoning her with their children, she was afraid she would end up on the streets.

One day a friend of Mariam’s told her about the “Peace Hut”. The blue container building does not look impressive, but it is where women affected by violence can receive advice from WANEP – the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding. Although she was initially sceptical, Mariam quickly noticed that she was really being listened to. A counsellor helped her to draw up a business plan and apply for some start-up capital to buy a deep freezer for storing fruit, ice and water. Then she started her production.

Ivory Coast: Financial independence paves the way for women to lead a self-determined life

It often only needs a minimal investment from WANEP to make simple businesses possible: selling meals or trading cloth, perfumes or sacks of coal. In the region of Abobo in the north of Abidjan, WANEP is supporting women who find themselves in severe crises. They receive intensive support and counselling alongside the starting capital. Their counsellors know how important these steps towards independence are: for many women it is more than a business – they are taking control of their own lives.

Organisations such as WANEP are countering violence and desperation, offering glimpses of hope and optimism. There is a great need for that in this region. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast were inflicted by numerous civil wars in recent decades. All of these conflicts saw very high levels of sexualised violence. Even though the security situation in Sierra Leone has slowly stabilised since the peaceful changes of government in Sierra Leone and Liberia, gender-based and sexualised violence is still a huge problem in all of these countries.

New partners in Sierra Leone and

Ivory Coast: education on genital mutilation and women's rights

medica mondiale has been working in West Africa since 2006, focussing initially on Liberia. Then last year saw the start of funding for projects in Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. The new partner organisations are taking a variety of approaches to bring an end to gender-based violence and enforce the rights of women and girls. One example is Action Pro in Sierra Leone: in the border regions with Liberia, they are working against child trafficking and child marriage. Other organisations run public awareness campaigns, start girls’ groups or work to stop female genital cutting.

Expanding the support provided in the region was essential to ensure that long-term impacts are achieved, according to Daniela Gierschmann, Regional Manager for West Africa at medica mondiale. Women and girls throughout the region are affected by similar, structural causes of violence. “Funding and assisting more organisations who are networking with each other, ensures an overall enhancement of women’s rights work in the area. The organisations can learn a lot from each other, enter into new joint projects, and follow common strategies. If we can contribute to this, then the impacts of our support will be felt beyond individual projects and funding periods.”

That's how much our help costs, which is only possible with your donation:

  • Some 75 euro per month pays a counsellor in the Peace Hut for her work
  • An average of 150 euro is the start-up capital needed to help the women set up their independent business.

*Name changed by the editor.

Published in memo (2019/02), p.4 (german)

Related topics 

More about our projects in Western Africa

New projects in Western Africa: Tackling sexualised violence across borders

Evaluation Liberia: Uncomplicated assistance for women and girls affected by violence

Burundi: Education for women enhances their self-esteem and independence

Liberia: Women, girls and men together for a non-violent way of living together