Marie-Paule Djegue Okri, an agronomist and agroecology consultant from Côte d’Ivoire, has been honored with the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for her contributions to gender equality.
The award, established in 2008 on the centenary of Simone de Beauvoir’s birth, is presented to individuals or associations dedicated to defending and promoting women’s freedom.
Okri, who co-founded the Ivorian League for Women’s Rights in response to perceived shortcomings in politics, said women must be able to enjoy the universal right to freedom, as reported by RFI.
“The women in Côte d’Ivoire are victims of a patriarchal society, sexism, and sexual violence, and they are not represented in politics,” she told RFI’s Christophe Boisbouvier on Tuesday after receiving her award in Paris.
Okri’s achievements include the creation of agricultural training programs for unemployed mothers with limited literacy skills in rural areas. She also champions education for young girls in the rural communities of Côte d’Ivoire, where access to schooling is limited.
“Women in these areas are born with the idea that they will get married. Things are starting to change with new demands and actions by NGOs,” she added.
The Ivorian League for Women’s Rights provides support for women who are victims of sexual harassment and rape.
The emphasis of their support is on reducing the shame associated with such experiences. Okri explained that they assure survivors that they are not responsible for what happened to them, especially in a nation such as Côte d’Ivoire where people tend to trivialize instances of rape.
The league also encourages women to file formal complaints against their attackers as a means to break the cycle of abuse within society. Okri, though currently not engaged in politics, has plans to run in legislative elections in 2026.
The 2023 Simone de Beauvoir Prize was dedicated to Iranian women advocating for freedom, commemorating the memory of Jina Mahsa Amini.
Amini reportedly died in custody for violating Iran’s dress code for women. In response to her death, Iranian women staged protests by burning their headscarves and publicly appearing with their hair uncovered as a symbolic demonstration against the restrictions imposed on them.