AFRICA · Ivory Coast
Facing adversity with bare hands
At the beginning of the century, the Ivory Coast went through a cruel civil war which destroyed a great deal of the wealth of what had been one of the most prosperous regions of sub-Saharan Africa. As usually the case in civil wars, the civilian population suffered the most, women and children especially. When the civil war started in the mountainous Western region of Man, numerous members of the Grace Cooperative of Women of Ivory Coast lost everything. Their husbands were killed defending the villages, the children were taken as child soldiers to neighboring Liberia; so many of the women had to flee. In 2004 many of them regrouped in the outskirts of the capital, Yamoussoukro. This cooperative presently regroups over 700 villages in three administrative regions, Danamé, Man and Bankouma. Under the leadership of its dynamic president, Madeleine Gblia, it is helping the women to either reconvert to other activities, or then rehabilitate their pre-war income generating activities. With this aim in view, the cooperative has created around Yamoussoukro a small centre to practice agriculture and raise livestock, which enables its members to cover their basic food needs practicing an intensive method of agriculture, which originated in Madagascar. In addition to their immediate survival, these courageous women have set up an innovative and audacious program to restore their region of origin. Even if the fight is almost superhuman, like all the African women who literally enable the continent to survive. They refuse to be discouraged.
(See the website of the organization: http://la-grace.new.fr)
Roughly 10 percent of Ivory Coast's 15-million inhabitants are infected with the AIDS virus. Nearly one-fifth of those infected are teenagers and pregnant women. The country's public health service estimates that more than 12 percent of the population will be H-I-V-positive by the year 2005 and about two thousand will die each week from the virus. More than 420-thousand have already perished in Ivory Coast since the first cases were reported in 1985. Medical researchers say prostitutes and their clients, soldiers on foreign missions, and sexually active teenagers are at highest risk.