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Elisabeth Domitien

Elisabeth Domitien

Elisabeth Domitien underwent the traditional pains that characterize C.A.R. today for women. Despite attending school under the catholic system, she was taught only “enough” for her gender with a greater focus towards performative skills like sewing and cooking.

Determined not to be another archetype woman, she followed her mother’s footsteps into farming for subsistence and export, quickly gaining a formidable reputation in business. Through her growing reputation, she was constantly sought after within her community for direction and counsel. (within a rural pre-colonial setting, individuals with financial prowess became de facto community leaders as they have the capacity to directly change the livelihoods of people).

Her political career was established in the critical area of state building during violent conflict for independence. She mobilised and united fragmented ethnic groups bringing them under the umbrella of the Social Evolution Movement of Black Africa (MESAN) – a social movement turned political party.

While within MESAN Domitien met the acquaintance of Jean-Bédel Bokassa who later appointed her to be Prime Minister in his government (1975) and Vice President within the party.

Domitien’s business profile and appreciation for agriculture made her place agriculture as part of her agenda for the state side by side with the empowerment of women. Under her Prime Minister-ship, and as a hallmark, women were elected ministers for Industry, Finance and planning, Women’s issues and commerce.

What sets apart Domitien was her appreciation and value for democracy. Despite serving under a known dictator, when a motion to turn the country into a monarchy was tabled, she opposed it leading to her political demise.

Arguments have been put forward that challenged the impact of her executive power with allegations of cowardice and appointment by kinship.

Although there may be credibility in the above, she remains a woman who rose and empowered woman from the grassroots in an adverse system.