Constance Yaï

Ashoka Fellow
Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast),
Fellow Since 1998


This profile was prepared when Constance Yaï was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1998.
The New Idea
Constance was raised in a progressive family environment that emphasized the importance of her own education and resistance to overtly repressive social norms. Constance therefore sees it as her mission of sorts to use her own privilege to benefit the hundreds of thousands of women throughout Cote d'Ivoire who find themselves trapped in webs of regressive, often violent, traditions.Constance works towards empowering women at a number of levels, beginning with a grass-roots campaign to make women aware of their political rights and powers. Building on her grass-roots support, Constance has implemented a number of more specific strategies–for example: she organizes meetings with community and religious leaders to discuss the potential for reforming violent practices such as genital mutilation, and she has founded a shelter and training center for battered and abused women.
Constance is the first in Cote d'Ivoire to attempt a large-scale mobilization of women–rich and poor, urban and rural. Whereas previous reformist efforts have revolved tightly around wealthy, foreign-educated women, Constance believes that no systematic change can be affected without the involvement of a large constituency of women across the country. To further promote her ideas Constance has developed a carefully considered national and international media strategy.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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