Cote d’Ivoire : A woman smoking fish, despite her disability


The sun rises at the Abobodoume’s landing site.  Fish processing women are getting on the move. Sitting on a stool, the deafening noise coming from all sides but left Ava Sidjé Bénédicte, 25 years old, undisturbed. In fact, she is deaf since the age of 8 years. But this doesn’t prevent her from working and picking up her living conveniently. She is a member of the Cooperative of fishmongers and fish products processing women in  Abidjan (CMATPHA)

 Sitting in front of a basin full of fish, Ava Sidjé Bénédicte, cleans them carefully one by one. Once cleaned, she folds the fish so as to connect the head to the tail using bamboo stem of about five centimeters. Then, she carries the fish thus prepared to the traditional Smokehouse where she lays them out onto the grill.

 Despite the thick smoke imposing to visitors and to all women, there is good-natured atmosphere. For Benedict, this work is a significant source of income. She earns between 1500 and 2000 FCFA. “Initially, I was ashamed of people. Thanks to my sister, I’m used to people working on the site and customers. Today, I’m no longer ashamed. I love this work. I feel good here. “I want to work more to not beg ‘, confides Ava Sidjé Bénédicte by signs.

In Côte d’Ivoire, there are 85 517 people living with disabilities, according to the last general population census and housing carried out in 1998 by the National Institute of statistics (INS). (Dumb) hearing disability comes second in the ranking of the most common forms of disability, after the physical disability.

 Across the country, there is only one specialized school, the Ivorian school of deaf (ECIS) which hosts barely 200 learners. The majority of the deaf is left to fend for itself. Some reduced to begging, others used in agricultural plantations or domestic work.

There are very few that have decent work like Ava Sidjé Bénédicte. To the point where being deaf and exercising fish trade is seen by many people as being a great achievement. «When I saw that woman for the first time, I had a twinge when I noticed that she is living  with a disability. I wondered what she was doing here. When I watched her in her activity of smoking, I realized that her disability did not prevent her from doing her job. In fact, she’s doing very well», testifies Akossi Hervé, Manager of the CMATPHA.  «She is loved by all the women at the landing site » says Naya Laurentine, a smoking and fish selling woman, who, from time to time, helps Bénédicte to communicate with customers not understanding the sign language.

Ogou Dama Begui


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