Teresa of Bourbon Two Sicilies (pictured), Marquise de Laserna and President of Honor of the NGO Harambee Spain, has awarded Vanessa Koutouan (pictured) with the Harambee Award for the promotion and equality of African women 2015. The winner is an Ivorian woman with university education and business profile who decided to turn her work in a school of solidarity with her neighbors, leading the Rural Center Ilomba in M’Batto-Bouaké, a town with lots of children and young people, without schools or health clinics.
The winner works in Ilomba with hundreds of young people “who do not know that they can have an autonomous and independent future in a society that, by ancestral customs, relegates women to their homes by depriving them of education, because families consider that educate them is a waste of time and money”, reported Koutuan.
Her commitment is to prepare these young Ivorian to have a job that allows them to survive without resorting to forced marriage for economic reasons.
Specifically, professional training courses in areas such as fashion, hospitality, and accounting and business management are taught from Ilomba “because these are the sectors in which they will find a job easier”.
The rapid job opportunity is not always the primary goal. As Koutouan notes, “some of these girls get through to secondary education, and we try that some of them may also access the University”.
Anyway, the girls who attend this training center get “be autonomous, ensure their independence, and dispose of their own lives.”
Ilomba also promotes literacy among adult women in the area and provides, through a medical clinic, health care in a population characterized by suffering a mortality rate of 20% among children under five years.
With the amount of Harambee Award a secondary school will be promoted in this region of Africa where schooling is very precarious. According to Koutouan, the commitment of Ilomba is not that African women just survive, but to live with dignity and to develop professionally, “because in this corner of Ivory Coast, good work is valued, but we still lack basic resources“.
Vanessa Koutoan highlighted the positive values in Africa and noted that she would export to Europe, among others, “the ability to be happy with what you have and to enjoy the work.”
Since it was created in 1992, Harambee has driven more than 50 projects in 17 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with 300,000 beneficiaries and promoted 39 educational programs. Currently it promotes other projects in Nigeria, Congo and Ivory Coast.