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Monique Koffi
CREDIT: Charles-Henry Delafosse

Portraits of resilience shine a light on women workers

Photographer Charles-Henry Delafosse explains how he was inspired by the determination of entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast – and a coming-of-age movie

With roadside trading prohibited, mother of four Monique Koffi, 26, sells products on the motorway between Yamoussoukro and Abidjan. 


He first picked up a camera in 2017 after watching the film Boyhood. Since then, Charles-Henry Delafosse has been making a name for himself as a documentary photographer, determined to “give a voice to the voiceless”.

Born to a French-Ivorian father and Cameroonian mother, Charles-Henry spent most of his childhood in Ivory Coast before moving to his maternal homeland. Resettling in Ivory Coast to pursue a degree in visual communication, he became inspired by the resilience of women workers facing the daily drudge of poverty and bureaucracy. The result is the series Women Entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast.

Describe yourself as a photographer

I’m not one to put myself in a box, however I would define myself as a spokesperson for the voiceless. 

Where are you based?

I am based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a beautiful and tropical country that borders the Atlantic Ocean.

When and why did you first pick up a camera?

It first started in 2017 when I bought my first professional camera after feeling inspired by the Richard Linklater movie Boyhood. My desire has always been to immortalise faces, document everyday scenes and showcase people’s stories through a camera lens. 

What has been your greatest achievement?

So far, it is my series Women Entrepreneurs in Ivory Coast. It allowed me to not only mature in my work but also represent my country at international exhibitions. Showcasing our culture to a large audience is my greatest achievement. 

What inspired the series?

It all started when one of Bill Gates’s organisations, the Initiative of Global Development (IGD), asked me to produce and host an exhibition showing 20 portraits of women entrepreneurs in an African country. I found remarkable personality traits – such as determination and authenticity – in these women while working with them. Ever since, I’ve been eager to deepen my knowledge on this topic.

Can photography change lives and how?

Photography does change lives. It is the mirror of society. In my opinion, photography uncovers the evils within communities with the aim of making every individual aware, which eventually leads to finding concrete solutions. It allows every single one of us to face our responsibilities.


Rachel Akou
CREDIT: Charles-Henry Delafosse

Rachel Akou, 30, began producing attiéké alongside her mother at the age of 16. Following the death of her mother she devoted herself to this activity which brought her an average of 40,000 FCFA per week. The physically demanding work had an impact on her health, so she gave it up and became a housekeeper.


Safiatou Diakité
CREDIT: Charles-Henry Delafosse

Safiatou Diakité, 50, is the mother of several children, two of whom obtained their BTEC Higher National Diploma recently. She has left the centre of Adjamé market for the road, where sales are more numerous. Safiatou says trading in the markets is difficult because young people no longer go there. She is now asking the government to support the development of market areas to attract a larger clientele.


Amy Koné
CREDIT: Charles-Henry Delafosse

Amy Kone, 20, began selling various products following her father’s death 10 years ago. Originally from a village near Agboville in Ivory Coast, she is now fighting to live and to feed her child.


Fanta Koné
CREDIT: Charles-Henry Delafosse

Fanta Koné was 18 when she started hairdressing. Now, 13 years later, she continues to style at the Yamoussoukro market to ensure a decent life for her children. Her daily salary ranges from 5,000 FCFA to 7,000 FCFA.

All images by Charles-Henry Delafosse.


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