PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Yolande Tano, Ph.D.
First Woman to Receive a Doctorate in Private Law
By Marie-Hortense Payette N'Takpe, Ph.D.
Born on July 17, 1953, in Grand-Bassam (Ivory Coast) to Alphonse Bouah Kamon (father and bailiff), and Thérèse Bouah Kamon (mother and schoolmistress), Yolande Tano married Neuw Abby Tano on February 17, 1979, and was blessed with three children, (Cédric, Laetitia and Olivia). Professor Yolande Tano (nee Bouah Kamon), is a retired Associate Professor, an expert in Private Law at the Félix Houphouët Boigny University of Abidjan, and a Senior Advisor in the Ministry of African Integration and the Ivorians of the Diaspora. She is the first female to receive a doctorate in private law in Cote d’Ivoire.
Professor Tano began her studies at the RAN Public Primary School, Abidjan, pursued secondary studies at the Lycée Sainte-Marie in Cocody-Abidjan, and completed her Advanced-Level exams in June 1971 with a specialization in philosophy and languages... She initially intended to study German but was forced to abandon her dream because at the time no cooperation, nor ties between Germany and Ivory Coast existed. Therefore, she followed the family tradition and opted for legal studies instead. Professor Tano subsequently enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Cocody in Abidjan from 1971 to 1975 and obtained a master's degree in business law, and subsequently a Diploma of Advanced Studies in Private Law (DEA) in Rennes in 1977. Upon returning home, she became an Assistant Lecturer in private law at the University of Cocody in 1977. However, Professor Tano did not rest on her laurels. On the contrary, she aimed higher.
To achieve her dreams, she returned to France, to the Faculty of Law of Montpellier, where she obtained a first-class after defending her doctoral thesis in private law on the theme: "The protection of minors under Ivorian law" on June 30th, 1982. A boost in her career occurred when she passed the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (Conseil Africain et Malgache pour l’Enseignement Superieur) (CAMES) -aggregation competition in Private Law with a distinction (Order of Merit n.1), becoming the second female tenured professor in private law in Côte d'Ivoire. She later trained to become a lawyer and was called to the bar in 2001. It is no doubt that with high-quality training and a remarkable skill set in the legal field, Professor Tano was admirably equipped to forge a stellar professional career.
Apart from being the first female Ivorian to hold a doctorate in private law, she held numerous high-level legal and administrative positions domestically and internationally. As an academic, Professor Tano taught courses in various disciplines in private law, maritime law, family law, contract law, labor law, and private judicial law. From 1989 to 1995, she held the positions of Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Law of Abidjan, President of the Department of Private Law, President of the Diplôme d'Études Approfondies (DEA) Programme in Private Law and the Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures Spécialisées (DESS) Programme in Business Law.
Professor Tano is also the first Ivorian female to sit on the Aggregation Committee for Private law. She was twice, in 1993 and 1995, a Member of the CAMES-Juridical and Political Sciences Aggregation Jury in both Cotonou and Lomé. From 1995 to 1996, Professor Tano became the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Abidjan, elected by her peers to oversee the administrative and educational management of the Faculty.
Professor Tano was also appointed Vice-President of the University of Abobo-Adjamé, which specializes in Natural Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Environmental Management. Although this position has nothing to do with the law, Professor Tano performed well at the helm of this University, which also required the set up of a new training program and research structures as stipulated by the law on Higher Education and Research. She has held permanent membership of the French Institute of International Legal Experts since 2006.
Since her call to the bar in 2001, Professor Tano has not particularly practiced law. Before being called to the Bar, between 1986 to 1994, she worked as an associate consultant with a firm of lawyers, Kangah and Associates, and was then in charge of processing Business law files, which included drafting, decision-making, negotiating, and providing legal assistance.
Professor Tano effectively combined her legal and judicial professions with administrative functions. Her motivation was not that of financial allure but rather the desire to use her expertise for the benefit of her country. She was a member of the National Prospective Commission of Côte d'Ivoire 2025 and Rapporteur of the Office of the said Commission from 1993 to 1995; Technical Advisor to the Ministry in charge of institutional relations and member of the jury of the Research Prize at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research between 1994 and 1999. She also chaired the Legal and Economic Sciences Committee from 1995 to 2016.
In 2011, Professor Tano was appointed Deputy Director of the Cabinet at the Ministry of African Integration and Ivorians of the Diaspora; she held the position until 2016. In the same year, her expertise was further recognized as she was appointed as part of the Committee of experts in charge of the revision of the Ivorian Constitution. She was one of three women out of ten experts appointed by the President of the Republic.).
Professor Tano has also used her expertise at an international level. She has very often been part of Ivorian delegations to the United Nations General Assembly. In this capacity, Professor Tano participated in the development of the International Criminal Court. In addition, in her personal capacity, Professor Tano was the representative of Côte d'Ivoire as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. She traveled to Canada and the United States, where she conducted a comparative study of the legal systems of the aforementioned countries. She focused on the common law and the American judicial system, encountered several attorneys, and visited various prisons in different states.
In 1985, she was an Associate Consultant on the condition of women and children in Côte d'Ivoire with several organizations, including UNICEF, UNDP, and the World Bank. This engagement continued with her cooptation from 1998 to 2001 in the International Bioethics Committee of UNESCO in which she was the Rapporteur for the bureau of the Committee responsible for the Human Genome Project, using embryonic stem cells and cloning in the medical field.
Her international career was brought into the limelight by her appointment in 2001 as Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Cote D'Ivoire to UNESCO-Paris. In this capacity, she worked to raise funding for regional projects for the improvement of the status of women, gender issues, the launch of cultural industries, amongst others. In 2007, she became a Senior Human Rights Consultant at the United Nations Office for West and Central Africa in Dakar. For a year, she offered her consultancy services on issues of human rights violations, insecurity in the ECOWAS region, and also on other matters of transitional justice. With UNAIDS, Professor Tano shared her expertise on laws on HIV / AIDS, gender, and human rights in Dakar, Yaoundé, and Bamako, from 2010 to 2012. However, these high positions did not take Professor Tano away from her first love and passion for scientific research. She has to her credit, numerous doctoral theses in Africa as well as in France, and also prepared many candidates for the CAMES teachers and researchers' aggregation competition.
Her writings include; the Legal incompetency of the Illiterate (1985), Monogamy, or Polygamy: a Difficult Social Choice? (1986); The Law for What? Inaugural Lesson (1986); The Precariousness of Land Title Deeds under Ivorian Law (1991); Legal Encyclopedia Africa/ AfricanLaw (Ivorian Law) Edition Bordas Dunod Gauthier - Villars (1992-1993); Medical Liability in Private Institutions (1995); Ethics and Careers of Teachers in Institutions of Higher Learning (1997) and many other writings produced in the course of her numerous consultations.
Looking back on her career path, one can only be proud of Professor Yolande Tano! Her dedication to hard work has earned her honor and recognition of the State of Côte d'Ivoire and international organizations, as evidenced by her numerous awards. Thus, she was made Officer of the Order of Merit of National Education of Côte d'Ivoire in November 1999, Officer of the National Order of Côte d'Ivoire in August 2002, Knight of the National Order Côte d'Ivoire in August 2006, and Commander of the National Order of Côte d'Ivoire in January 2013, and again in 2017. Additionally, Professor Tano was awarded the Diploma of Honor by the Permanent Delegate of UNESCO for her active participation in various committees and the work of UNESCO, including the Executive Council, the General Conference, the subsidiary bodies, and the African Group.
Although retired, the distinguished Professor continues to support scientific research by supervising doctoral dissertations and master's theses. Her expertise is still sought after by many private universities in Abidjan to lead as an educational executive or member of a scientific committee. Despite all her achievements, Professor Yolande Tano does not intend to rest on her laurels but plans to take on new challenges. The life and career of Professor Yolande Evelyne Marie-Therese Tano is a distinguished one with footprints of professional accomplishments. Her life has been rather inspiring, especially for the women whom she encouraged to have confidence and believe in their abilities.