The end of my Ivorian adventure

Karina Fauteux is a voluntary legal adviser deployed in Côte d’Ivoire as part of the project “Protection of children, women and other communities in vulnerable situations” (PRODEF). This project is being implemented by the International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR) and Lawyers Without Borders Canada (ASFC), with financial support from World Affairs Canada. Karina joined the San Pedro Legal Clinic in 2017, where she served 2 terms of 8 months each.

Today, I packed my bags. Not my usual suitcases for a weekend vacation out of town or the slightly larger ones for a three-month vacation in Canada, but the real ones. The suitcases that mark the end of my Ivorian adventure. By storing all my possessions in it, memories and emotions come back to me.

At the bottom of my bags, I first carefully placed several significant African fabrics (loincloths) in them. In Côte d’Ivoire, it is customary to give a loincloth as a gift on special occasions. I received my first loincloth on my first birthday in Côte d’Ivoire. The members of JICA had given me a gift of one of its fabrics in which I had a dress sewn. The second was received as a gift during an awareness campaign on children’s rights in Kako village. The village chiefs and its inhabitants had given me some pieces in which I had a top and a dress made. I’ve worn them so much. My third loincloth was given as a token of appreciation to close my first term. Half of my biggest suitcase is filled with dresses, pants, tops and skirts in multiple colours and patterns. They represent a whole part of Ivorian culture, but also good understanding, recognition, teamwork and friendship.

In my closet, I also found two dresses made for International Women’s Rights Day. On these very special days, the women make loincloths with the effigy of the event. Virtually all the women who participate in the day’s activities are dressed in this fabric. Each has its own model to defend a common cause. I recall the parades organized to highlight the efforts already made to achieve gender equality and the challenges that still lie ahead. This year’s model review makes me smile when I think back to the time I tore the slit in my dress when I got out of the vehicle just before giving a women’s rights training in front of about 40 people. These dresses represent good moments filled with a mixture of embarrassment and hilarity shared with extraordinary women working at the San Pedro Legal Clinic.

While cleaning my personal belongings, I also find cards and gifts from friends received for my birthday. I reread with nostalgia the letter of a young girl who expresses her attachment and affection to me in a map she has carefully drawn for the occasion. I also find some pictures of these events. In nearly two years, I have accomplished and seen many things, but the memories that will remain most vividly engraved in my memory are the moments I have had the opportunity to share and the relationships I have had the pleasure of building. I had the opportunity to have these friendships among my colleagues at work and outside. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to count on each and every one of them.

It was almost two years ago that I arrived in Côte d’Ivoire for the first time. I felt small, confused and particularly pale after spending the last year tanning in the light of a library’s neon lights. I was intimidated by all the experienced people I had the chance to work with and the responsibility of representing my mission. Nevertheless, I was motivated and motivated by the desire to contribute to a cause that was close to my heart. Even if my journey was not without difficulty, I will have a very good memory of it as well as new skills and experiences. I hope to be able to hear from a good old Akwaba again soon.