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Key findings
  • In São Tomé and Príncipe, women are less likely than men to have secondary or post- secondary education and more likely than men to have only primary or no formal schooling.
  • Women trail men in ownership of key assets, including a bank account (31% vs. 46%), a motor vehicle (13% vs. 28%), and a computer (13% vs. 20%). o But women and men are equally likely to say they make decisions themselves about how household money is spent.
  • Majorities say women should have the same rights as men to get a paying job (61%) and to own and inherit land (83%). Men are far less likely than women to endorse gender equality in hiring (54% vs. 68%). o Strong majorities say that, in practice, women enjoy equal rights when it comes to getting a job (78%) and owning/inheriting land (83%).
  • Almost nine in 10 São Toméans (86%) say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to public office. o But 56% consider it likely that a woman who runs for elective office will be criticised or harassed by others in the community, and 40% think she will probably face problems with her family.
  • While 61% of citizens think the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well” at promoting equal rights and opportunities for women, 76% say it should do more.

Over the past two decades, São Tomé and Príncipe have taken important policy steps that strive to achieve gender equality, exemplified by the Political Parity Law passed in 2022. This law mandates that at least 40% of elective and Cabinet positions be reserved for women, who currently hold just 15% of seats in the National Assembly (Overvest, 2022; IPU Parline, 2023).

Efforts to promote girls’ education have also seen advancement, with the elimination in 2020 of the Disciplinary Act, which prohibited pregnant girls from attending classes or engaging in school activities (Ramos, 2020). This aligns with such other measures as the Education Sector Plan and the Educational Policy Charter 2012-2020, which promote girls’ schooling in deprived areas and provide incentives, such as study grants, for children from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds (Ministry of Education, Culture, and Training, 2016).

To strengthen protection for women, São Tomé and Príncipe in 2012 replaced its colonial-era penal code with a law that formally recognizes domestic violence as a criminal offense (Oliveira et al., 2016).

Despite these efforts, gender disparities grounded in patriarchal norms persist in education, employment, access to productive resources, financial inclusion, and political voice, among other areas (African Development Bank, 2023; Groussard, di Ricco, & Mazoni, 2023).

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender equality in control over assets, hiring, land ownership, and political leadership. (For findings on gender-based violence, see Twum and Owusu, 2023).

Findings show that in São Tomé and Príncipe, women trail men in educational attainment and asset ownership. A majority of citizens endorse gender equality in hiring, land ownership, and politics, although many consider it likely that women who run for public office will face negative reactions from their communities and families.

A majority approve of the government’s performance on gender equality, but most say it should do more.

Maame Akua Amoah Twum

Maame is the communications coordinator for North and Anglophone West Africa at Afrobarometer

Divine Ntiamoah Berko

Divine Ntiamoah Berko is a gender diversity and inclusion officer for the West Africa Democracy Solidarity (WADEMOS)