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AD305: For Senegalese women, advancement is real but uneven

Christina Scheller, Thomas Isbell and David Jacobs 28 Jun 2019 Senegal
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Key findings
  • Overall, Senegalese support equal opportunity and are satisfied with the government’s promotion of gender equality.
  • Disparities become more apparent when we examine women’s access to jobs and other resources.
  • Despite these lingering disparities, Senegalese men and women report similar levels of political and civic participation.

The political, economic, and social inequality of women in Africa has fueled significant international discourse since the 1950s, when the United Nations (UN) began interrogating the effects of harmful traditional practices on women across the continent. Human-rights groups have attempted to put pressure on African governments to promote women’s access to education, health care, economic opportunities, and participation in governance and politics (Murungu, 2017). UN member states made the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment their Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 (United Nations, 2019). Though there is some optimism about progress toward women’s equality, challenges remain abundant (United Nations, 2016).

Senegal has taken several steps to promote women’s rights, such as anchoring gender equality in its Constitution (Article 7), ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), creating a “national parity observatory (Observatoire National de Parité, 2017), and developing a National Strategy for Gender Equality and Equity (UN Women, 2018; UN Human Rights, 2015). After the adoption of a parity law in 2010 designed to ensure that half of all political offices are held by women, the 2012 election saw a record 64 women elected to Parliament. But while some have pointed to the benefits of women having representatives and role models to empower them, others have said that women are being given “an easy route” into politics based on their gender and not their merit, stifling development and democracy (Hirsch, 2012).

In this paper, we use Afrobarometer survey data to explore popular attitudes and views on gender rights and equality among ordinary Senegalese. We find that Senegalese are generally supportive of equal opportunities for women. A majority believe women should have an equal chance to be elected to political office and should have the same rights as men to own or inherit land. Yet women still lag behind men in many aspects of society, particularly with regard to economic opportunity and access to resources.

Christina Scheller

Christina Scheller is a researcher.

Thomas Isbell

Thomas Isbell is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa, University of Cape Town.

David Jacobs

David Jacobs is a former officer in the South African Navy and assistant director in the Western Cape Provincial Government in South Africa.