Situation of women in Senegal

Female Literacy Ratio

Africa stands out in the world as being the only continent where 38%[1] of adults are illiterate. What is more, two-thirds of these are women.

Out of 16,2[2] million Senegalese more than half (57.7%%[3]) are literate, meaning they can read and write. Similar literacy rates are in the surrounding countries: the rates are below 50% in Burkina Faso, the Gambia Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Niger[4].

Most of the children in Senegal attend primary education, however drop rate remains high, especially for girls. Throughout the years, Senegal has faced an increasing numbers of girls in primary schooling but they are less likely to continue. The first graph shows girls being more present in schools, while the second graphs proves a shift in numbers. Drop out rate for girls increases because of various socio-economic factors. For instance, girls have to abandon education due to distance to schools, early marriages and early motherhood, poverty and child labour. Human Rights Watch reports, that more than 54 percent of young mothers dropped out of school between 2011 and 2014[5] and only 15% resumed their education.

Overall, female literacy remain considerably lower than male. According to statistics from 2015, out of total literate population, women consisted 46,6%[6].

Women in Labour force

Females participate in the labour market less than males: the rate for former is 28,56% and 61,9% for latter. The strong male presence are related to several important societal factors. Firstly, men are more educated than women. Secondly, due to socio-cultural and religious reasons, women are perceived as second-class citizens. For instance, women coming from certain backgrounds, are obliged to stick with domestic chores instead of integrating to labour market. Moreover, access to land is restricted, since land ownership was traditionally retained for men. However, women participation in economy has been growing with even greater presence in informal sector.

Work and Life Balance

Gender Wage Gap

Women in Senegal are responsible mainly for sustaining the household and performing other chores for the family, while men earn all the income.

A young mother working at a marketplace, Yoff, Senegal, Oct. 14, 2015 (Bioversity International photo by Sandro Bozzolo via Flickr).

In West Africa, big gender disparities endure. Senegalese perceive that differentiation of wages does not exist if the woman and the man have the same diploma or the same technical training. But women who work in the informal sector (that makes the biggest part of the economy) suffer from a deficit of income with regard to their male counterparts; on average the men receive 82,9% more than the women.

Violence against Women

Violence against women rises from socio-cultural factors. Most of the women believe that a husband has the right to beat his wife if she has neglected her duties[7], which results in 60% of women that suffer from violence and over a half (53%) of households that undergo marital violence. Besides, police is reluctant to interfere as it’s perceived as a ‘family matter’.

Another human rights issue derived from traditions is the Female Genital Mutilation. Senegalese law provides criminal penalties for these cuttings, but according to 2012-13 survey data, it has still been performed on 18% of girls below 14 years old. In 2011, the number was 26%[8] for women aged 15-45.

Women in Parliament

Senegal marks an exception in terms of women political representation. It’s the only country in Western Africa where parliament consists of 42.7% women, which is a result of 2010 parity law.

Senegal: early marriage

According to OECD, Seven West African countries rank among the top 20 countries in the world with the highest rate of child marriage [Niger (1), Chad (3), Mali (5), Guinea (6), Burkina Faso (8), Sierra Leone (13) and Nigeria (14)]. There has been endeavours to tackle the issue: tradition has been outlawed by the constitution, Senegal has adhered to all United Nations and regional African initiatives that prohibit the practice, but in reality young girls are still being forced into marriage.

According to Human Rights Watch, Nearly one in three girls is married before they turn 18, and more than nine percent of girls are married by age 15, even though the Family code allows marriages from 16 years old for girls.

War & women rights

Since 1982, Casamance, a natural southern region of Senegal, has been struck by an armed conflict between the Central State (government) and Democratic Forces of Casamance (rebel separatists). The conflict has manifested in various forms of violence and disruption. In particular, the most vulnerable and violated part of the population was and still is the women. They suffer from physical, psychological, economical and social as well as gender-related violence. Even though the conflict has calmed down, but women and children still deeply feel the hustle of violence. They experience rape, mutilation, torture, forced displacement, kidnapping, trafficking and other discriminatory violence[9]. Moreover, the conflict has drastically increased the poverty level and decreased living conditions. About 16,000 Senegalese refugees continue to live in the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau as a result of more than 30 years[10] of fighting in the southern Senegalese region.