Côte d’Ivoire: Situation of educated women living alone, whether single or divorced, particularly in Abidjan and Bouaké; whether they can find work and housing; support services available to them (2014-April 2016) [CIV105508.FE]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

An article in the French daily Le Monde notes that there is

[translation]

[a]n underrepresented category in Côte d’Ivoire—women who, because they attended school for a long time, do not need a man to support them and … [who,] in a society where a woman’s fulfilment is dependent on her marriage, … have considerable difficulty finding their place. (Le Monde 25 Jan. 2015)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Association of Women Lawyers of Côte d’Ivoire (Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire, AFJCI), a non-profit NGO (AFJCI n.d.a) that [translation] “helps to promote and capacity build the law and access to justice in Côte d’Ivoire” (ibid. n.d.b), pointed out that women are living alone

[translation]

more and more; it is common, especially for women who are more than 30 years old—they can live alone fairly well, without parents being concerned, however, before that age, it is a little more complicated, particularly for single women. (ibid. 21 Apr. 2016)

That same source stated that [translation] “single women can easily get around, move and resettle in Abidjan or Bouaké without fearing for their personal safety,” but that the idea of women living alone “is not welcome” particularly with respect to “customs, habits and the family” (ibid.). However, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Women’s Centre for Democracy and Human Rights in Côte d’Ivoire (Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Côte d’Ivoire, CEFCI), an NGO (CEFCI n.d.a) that aims to [translation] “[h]elp reduce inequalities between men and women in order to improve the living conditions of women” (ibid. n.d.b), stated with respect to women living alone that [translation] “there are no impediments as such in the customs and habits in Côte d’Ivoire. The impediment is instead whether they have the financial means to take care of themselves” (ibid. 21 Apr. 2016). She stated that, in the large cities like Abidjan and Bouaké, [translation] “women are able to live [alone] if they have the means,” but that “in the villages, it is more complicated: tradition plays a role and it has a greater influence” (ibid.).

In an interview broadcast on the TV5 Monde website, former Minister of the Promotion of Women Constance Toma’m Yaï denounces [translation] “the deplorable economic situation of Ivorians,” who are “even poorer than their poorest sisters in Southern Africa” (TV5 Monde 2 Nov. 2015). According to Country Reports 2015,

[s]ome women had trouble obtaining loans because they could not meet lending criteria, including requirements for posting expensive household assets as collateral, which may not have a woman listed on the title. Women also experienced economic discrimination in owning or managing businesses. (US 13 Apr. 2016, 22)

The representative of AFJCI stated the following:

[translation]

There are criteria set out—it is not the matrimonial situation that determines the granting of funds; it is especially the ability to carry out an activity and be able to reimburse the funds. There is also the issue of credit with the banks. They do not consider a woman’s matrimonial situation but rather her ability to reimburse. Whether the woman is single or in a couple, it does not change anything; it is her credit, work and income that count. (AFJCI 21 Apr. 2016)

Le Monde points out that [translation] “[r]egardless of religion, marriage is considered to be proof that a woman has been educated well enough by her parents to find a man who accepts her” (Le Monde 25 Jan. 2015). That same source cites Constance Toma’m Yaï who states that

[translation]

[s]ingle women face enormous social pressure daily. Even if their professional situation is sound, they are constantly humiliated, depreciated and the subject of malicious rumours; they are excluded from decision making and their words are heard after those of married women. (ibid.)

Cited in that same article, Mariam, a young Muslim woman who studied in Morocco and whose parents are public servants, stated that [translation] “it is still very poorly viewed for a woman to live alone, even in Abidjan” (ibid.).

2. Legislation

According to the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015, “[t]he law prohibits discrimination based on gender, and the government encouraged full participation by women in social and economic life” (US 13 Apr. 2016, 22). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the representative of AFJCI stated that, in Côte d’Ivoire,

[translation]

[t]here is no law concerning single, celibate or divorced women. Whether they live in a home with a companion without being married or they live alone, there is no legal impediment. (AFJCI 21 Apr. 2016)

3. Employment

Empowering African Women: An Agenda for Action. Africa Gender Equality Index 2015, a report published by the African Development Bank (AfDB), states that, according to an AfDB report on gender equality published in 2012, women [AfDB English version] “own a third of all businesses across Africa, up to a high of 62 % in Côte d’Ivoire” (AfDB May 2015, 11). According to Country Reports 2015,

[l]abour federations attempted to fight for just treatment under the law for workers when companies … discriminated between classes of workers, such as women. (US 13 Apr. 2016, 31)

According to the representative of CEFCI, with respect to access to work, the fact that a woman lives alone [translation] “poses no problem” (CEFCI 21 Apr. 2016). According to the same source, [translation] “there may be situations, however, [such as] promotions, when they may try to see whether a woman is married … but this is not a criteria” (ibid.). Similarly, according to the representative of AFJCI, for women living alone,

[translation]

[t]here are no impediments, and it is not something that you are asked during the hiring process. However, [with respect to] executives, … if a woman is married, there may be certain advantages because, for some employers, an unmarried woman may be perceived as irresponsible. (AFJCI 21 Apr. 2016)

Information concerning the type of work that women living alone in Côte d’Ivoire do or do not have access to could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Housing

With respect to the possibility of women living alone and renting or buying a home or apartment, the representative of CEFCI stated that,

[translation]

[i]n small villages, it is more complicated because of tradition … [and] the land issue, because women do not have access to land in all villages. Even if they work, and even if they have the means, they often have to be accompanied by a brother or cousin because it is prohibited in some places for women to own land. (CEFCI 21 Apr. 2016)

Similarly, in a report on Côte d’Ivoire published in 2013, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) explains that, [translation] “in customary land ownership, … women do not have access to property” (US May 2013, 9).

Furthermore, in a report titled Displaced Women’s Rights to Housing, Land and Property in Post-Conflict Western Côte d’Ivoire, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) states that, with respect to possible land disputes,

[Norway English version]

[w]omen who are aware of their rights … can fear physical retribution or social exclusion if they attempt to seek help from NGOs or statutory courts. … Neither can they generally rely on customary justice systems to resolve intra-familial [housing, land and property] disputes in their favour. (Norway 2015, 24)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In a text published by Gender Links News Service, a multi-media project of Gender Links, a South African NGO that promotes gender equality (Gender Links n.d.), Augustin Tapè, a journalist interested in gender equality issues and the coordinator of the News Ivoire information website, wishes [translation] “the creation of offices to facilitate women’s access to land ownership” as a means of helping to eliminate discrimination against women in Côte d’Ivoire (ibid. 3 July 2014).

The representative of CEFCI notes with respect to housing for women living alone that,

[translation]

it is easier in Abidjan; however, even in Abidjan there are some owners who are reluctant to rent to single women. … some women stated that they had to bring their brother with them in order to rent a house because the owner did not want single women in their house. Sometimes they refuse to rent to single women. (CEFCI 21 Apr. 2016)

According to the representative of AFJCI, [translation] “there are no special problems for single women. What is mainly asked is whether they have a job and they are able to pay” (AFJCI 21 Apr. 2016). The representative of CEFCI added the following specification: [translation] “it depends on the religion. For example, in the Muslim religion, [a single woman] is generally less accepted than in Christian religions” (CEFCI 21 Apr. 2016).

5. Social Services

Without providing further details, the representative of AFJCI and the representative of CEFCI stated that there are organizations that help women, but they are not specifically for single women (AFJCI 21 Apr. 2016; CEFCI 21 Apr. 2016). The representative of CEFCI added that, to her knowledge, no government organization provides help to single women in particular (ibid.).

Information on organizations whose mission is to provide support to women living alone in Côte d’Ivoire could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

African Development Bank (AfDB). May 2015. Autonomiser les femmes africaines : plan d’action. Indice de l’égalité du genre en Afrique 2015. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2016]

Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI). 21 April 2016. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI). N.d.a. “About.” [Accessed 26 Apr. 2016]

Association des femmes juristes de Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI). N.d.b. “Activités.” [Accessed 26 Apr. 2016]

Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Côte d’Ivoire (CEFCI). 21 April 2016. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Côte d’Ivoire (CEFCI). N.d.a. “About.” [Accessed 26 Apr. 2016]

Centre féminin pour la démocratie et les droits humains en Côte d’Ivoire (CEFCI). N.d.b. “Présentation du CEFCI.” [Accessed 26 Apr. 2016]

The Gender Links News Service. 3 July 2014. Augustin Tapé. “L’élimination des discriminations contre les Ivoiriennes passe par une application des lois.” (Factiva)

The Gender Links News Service. N.d. “GL News Service.” [Accessed 27 Apr. 2016]

Le Monde. 25 January 2015. “Côte d’Ivoire : une génération de femmes indépendantes, libres et sans mari ‘2e bureau’.” [Accessed 19 Apr. 2016]

Norway. 2015. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Droit au logement, à la terre et aux biens des femmes déplacées. By Safiatu Ayandunke Alabi, Laura Cunial, Kirstie Farmer and Kelsey Jones-Casey. [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016]

TV5 Monde. 2 November 2015. Liliane Charrier. “Rapport de la BAD sur l’égalité des genres en Afrique : l’électrochoc.” [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016]

United States (US). 13 April 2016. Department of State. “Cote d’Ivoire.” Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015. [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016]

United States (US). May 2013. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID Country Profile - Property Rights and Resource Governance - Côte d’Ivoire. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2016]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Organisation des femmes actives de Côte d’Ivoire.

Internet sites, including: Abidjan.net; Actu360.info; Africa Confidential; Africahotnews.com; Africa News Hub; Afrik.com; Amnesty International; Association tchadienne pour la promotion et la défense des droits de l’homme; Cairn.info; Coordination pour l’Afrique de demain; Côte d’Ivoire – Compétences féminines, ministère de la Promotion de la femme, de la Famille et de la Protection de l’Enfant; Cote-d-ivoire.net; Courrier des Afriques; Droits de l’homme sans frontières — Afrique; ecoi.net; Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’homme; Freedom House; Human Rights Watch; Minority Rights Group International; Mouvement mondial des droits humains; Œil d’Afrique; Radio France internationale; UN – UN Office for West Africa, Human Rights Council, UN Population Fund, UN Development Program, Refworld, UNESCO.