The Association of Women Lawyers of Côte d’Ivoire (AFJCI), a key player in the child protection system in Ivory Coast

women lawyers Cote Ivoire child protection

Déborah Marie-Estelle N'Guessan

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast

Read the biography

« Why not? That’s what I said to myself when the PRIDE project team offered me to start a mandate as a legal and child protection advisor at AFJCI in July 2021 ».

Working and supporting the strengthening of the implementation of the principle of participation and the monitoring and evaluation of national policies for the protection of children's rights were my major objectives when I signed up as a volunteer for PRIDE.

From the very first hours of my mandate with the Association des femmes juristes de Côte D'Ivoire (AFJCI), I was pleasantly surprised by the organisation and the staff working there.

Founded in 1984, AFJCI's mission is to work for the protection and promotion of women's and children's rights in Côte d'Ivoire. In this mission, it assists children in the establishment of suppletive judgements in relation to civil status, offers legal support to child victims of violence in the country through its dedicated clinics and works to strengthen other actors in the national child protection system (such as the police). All these actions are carried out thanks to a referral system shared with partners, civil society organisations and state institutions

In addition, it works to popularise children's rights among the population while encouraging and participating in advocacy with the competent authorities in order to promote the interests of children in their various national programmes and action plans.

The AFJCI is also involved in the platforms to fight against sexual and gender-based violence (led by the Ministry of Women, Family and Children) at the local level and through its legal clinics and the "orphans and vulnerable children" platforms. These meetings allow all actors in the system to discuss issues relating to the protection of children's rights.

Focus on legal clinics

« Thanks to the legal clinics, people have access to basic legal advice and support in their legal proceedings, even in the most remote areas of Côte d’Ivoire […] »

The legal clinics demonstrate great expertise in the management and treatment of cases of violence against children and women.

During a mission to the legal clinic in Daloa, a city 383 km from Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire, as part of my mandate, I learned that the majority of cases of violence against children and women in the city were referred to the police.

383 km from Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d'Ivoire, I learned that the majority of cases of violence against children and women in the city were referred to the legal clinic, which is well established in the local protection system. In collaboration with the social centres and the judicial protection services, the AFJCI also provides psychosocial and legal follow-up, depending on the resources available, to the cases it receives.

The involvement of the association's women lawyers in legal proceedings has a considerable and positive influence on the treatment of cases of violence against women and children by other actors in the protection system, particularly the security forces and/or the justice system. Thus, strengthening the skills of AFJCI professionals has been one of the major objectives from the beginning of my mandate.

PRIDE's contribution through my volunteer mandate

In July, when I started my mandate, I had the privilege of working with four legal clinics: those in Daloa, Yopougon, Abobo and Plateau.

During the many workshops organised, a real need was identified to draw up a protocol for managing cases of violence against children and women, in order to harmonise and popularise AFJCI's good practices among the affected populations. It is therefore on this theme that I will work during the rest of my mandate.

« My capacity and expertise on the protection of children's rights through South-South cooperation is strengthened »

My humble experiences in the field of protection and promotion of children's rights, with children in conflict with the law in juvenile centres, have taught me that a case of violence of any kind, when badly managed, can become a source of insecurity for the whole society. The work done in the framework of my mandate must therefore help to avoid this. But my experience as a volunteer with AFJCI also teaches me the necessity and urgency of developing strategies for the full participation of children at all levels of development in the country for their full inclusion, development, autonomy and protection.

The experience with AFJCI is my very first as a volunteer, but surely one of the most determining for my professional career.

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