“Dear Mutualist Ladies”: networking for women in Africa and Europe on the International Women Mutualists Day in Abidjan

Romain Chave
21 Mars 2019

Ahead of International Women’s Day, more than one hundred female leaders from 12 African and European countries met in Abidjan on 5 and 6 March. This was part of the first Journée Internationale de la Femme Mutualiste, dedicated to female leadership within mutuals.

1st Day visits, meetings and sharing experiences

The event was organised by the PASS (The Support Programme for health mutuals in Africa) with the support of Mutualité, the MGEN, Group Vyv, African women initiative (AWI) and the MUGEF-CI (The Mutual for Public Servants in Côte d’Ivoire). PASS supports the development and structuring of the mutualist movement in the UEMOA zone, most notably through advocacy work, raising awareness, training and the development of management tools.

On the first day, several visits were organised to give an overview of the challenges, advances and successes of mutuals in Côte d’Ivoire.

 “Women mutualists, dare to get involved, you have the right and the skills”

Whether through managing household budgets, tontines or community health cooperatives, this day has highlighted the essential role women play in solidarity based and development projects for the emancipation of women.

Solidarity based health coverage systems are an extraordinary societal transformation instrument, enabling the undertaking of solidarity actions for the emancipation of women but also as a field of action and a means of expression for women.

But, how do we facilitate women engagement in the governance of mutuals? What obstacles prevent their participation and what challenges do they face as women?

Through sharing experiences during the JIFM, there was an opportunity to encourage women to get involved and be brave enough to take their place in governing mutuals. There were speeches given by representative or staff of mutuals during the opening sessions and round tables which facilitated the discussion of different points:

  • Mutuals as a militant movement which practises values of democracy, responsibility and strengthening women’s skills
  • The importance of making men aware of the issue of gender equality and supporting the integration of women in mutuals
  • The issue of emancipation from cultural restraints, which confine women to domestic roles, to “get women out of the kitchen"

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A network to engage women in mutuals

How can we follow up on these meetings? At the JIFM’s close, more than eighty women had taken part in a think-tank workshop on the issue of “strategies and tools to implement with a view to promoting the engagement of women in mutuals. This think-tank was hosted by Flora Hermet, the Director of the department of governance in Group VYV, and Sylvie Ouedraogo, PASS and ESN contact point in Burkina-Faso.

These discussions highlighted the need for exchange and to reinforce the connections between women involved in mutuals within the region and in the North and South and to sustain these new relationships. The most interesting themes raised by the participants were on the subject of the principles of mutuality, the management of mutuals, the issue of recovery or even fraud.

To respond to these needs, a platform for sharing good practices, information and exchanges should be established with technical support from PASS, while the date for the second International Women’s Day has already been given.