Marie-Paule Djegue Okri, an agronomist and agro-ecology consultant from Côte d'Ivoire, was awarded the Simone de Beauvoir Prize for her work in gender equality. The award, founded on the centenary of Beauvoir's birth in 2008, is given to a person or association that defends and promotes women's freedom.
Okri co-founded the Ivorian League for Women's Rights four years ago as a response to "bad politics”, and says that women everywhere should have the right to freedom.
"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 developing agricultural training for unemployed mothers with limited literacy skills in rural areas.
Her work also focuses on the importance of education for young girls in Côte d'Ivoire's rural communities, where 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 says.
Taking rape seriously
The league, also supports women victims of sexual harrassment and rape, with emphasis on reducing shame.
"We tell them they are not responsible for what happened,” Okri says, adding that Ivorian society often trivialises rape.
The league encourages women to make a formal complaint against their attacker to “stop a vicious cycle from repeating itself within society", she says.
While not yet involved in politics, Okri intends to run in legislative elections in 2026.
The 2023 prize was awarded to Iranian women fighting for freedom in memory of Jina Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after allegedly breaking Iran's dress code for women.
To protest Mahsa's death, Irian women burning their headscarves and appeared in public with their hair uncovered.
This article originally appeared in French based on an interview by Christophe Boisbouvier.