Women in Africa

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One of the most notable women in Ancient Africa is Cleopatra.

Women in Africa are women who were born in, who live in, and are from the continent of Africa. The culture, evolution and history of African women is related to the evolution and history of the African continent itself. They come from sovereign states in Africa that include women from Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe.

Other African women come from states with limited recognition internationally such as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Other women of Africa come from dependencies and territories of European countries like Spain, Portugal, France, and the United Kingdom. Women from dependencies and overseas territories of Spain include women from the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, and Women in Plazas de soberanía. Women from dependencies and overseas territories of Portugal include women from Madeira. Women who come from dependencies and overseas territories of France include women from Mayotte, Réunion. While those women who are from dependencies and territories of the United Kingdom are from Saint Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha.

Algeria[edit]

Main article: Women in Algeria

During the 1962 Algerian War of Independence, Algerian women fought as equals alongside men. They thus achieved a new sense of their own identity and a measure of acceptance from men. In the aftermath of the war, women maintained their new-found emancipation and became more actively involved in the development of the new state. Algeria is regarded as a relatively liberal nation and the status of women reflects this.[1] Unlike other countries in the region, equality for women is enshrined in Algerian laws and the constitution.[1] They can vote and run for political positions.[2]

Angola[edit]

Main article: Women in Angola

In rural Angola, as in many African economies, most of the population engaged in agricultural activities. Women in Angola performed much of the agricultural labor. Marriage generally involved family, political, and economic interests as well as personal considerations. The household was the most important unit of production and was usually composed of several generations. The women grew and prepared most of the food for the household and performed all other domestic work. Because of their major role in food production, women shared relatively equal status with men, who spent much of their time hunting or tending cattle.

Benin[edit]

Main article: Women in Benin

The state of the rights of women in Benin has improved markedly since the restoration of democracy and the ratification of the Constitution, and the passage of the Personal and Family Code in 2004, both of which overrode various traditional customs that systematically treated women unequally. Still, inequality and discrimination persist. Polygamy and forced marriage are illegal but still occur.[3] Enforcement of the law against rape, the punishment for which can be up to five years in prison, is hampered by corruption, ineffective police work, and fear of social stigma. Police incompetence results in most sexual offenses being reduced to misdemeanors. Domestic violence is widespread, with penalties of up to 3 years in prison, but women are reluctant to report cases and authorities are reluctant to intervene in what are generally considered private matters.[4]

Botswana[edit]

Main article: Women in Botswana

Burkina Faso[edit]

Main article: Women in Burkina Faso

Burundi[edit]

Main article: Women in Burundi

Cameroon[edit]

Main article: Women in Cameroon

Cape Verde[edit]

Main article: Women in Cape Verde

Central African Republic[edit]

The Central African Republic had the first female prime minister in Africa, Elisabeth Domitien, the first female presidential candidate in Africa, Jeanne-Marie Ruth-Rolland and currently has a female president, Catherine Samba-Panza. Women have long been involved in the politics of the Central African Republic however they have always remained underrepresented.

Chad[edit]

Main article: Women in Chad

Women in Chad are the mainstay of its predominantly rural-based economy and they outnumber the men.[5]

Comoros[edit]

Main article: Women in Comoros

Despite their lower economic status, women in Comoros who are married to farmers or laborers often move about more freely than their counterparts among the social elite, managing market stands or working in the fields. On Mwali, where traditional Islamic values are less dominant, women generally are not as strictly secluded. Women constituted 40.4 percent of the work force in 1990, a figure slightly above average for sub-Saharan Africa.

Girls are somewhat less likely than boys to attend school in Comoros. The World Bank estimated in 1993 that 67 percent of girls were enrolled in primary schools, whereas 82 percent of boys were enrolled. In secondary school, 15 percent of eligible Comoran girls were in attendance, in comparison with about 19 percent of eligible boys.

Although the 1992 constitution recognizes their right to suffrage, as did the 1978 constitution, women otherwise play a limited role in politics in Comoros. By contrast, in Mahoré female merchants sparked the movement for continued association with France, and later, for continued separation from the Republic of the Comoros.

Comoros accepted international aid for family planning in 1983, but it was considered politically inexpedient to put any plans into effect. According to a 1993 estimate, there were 6.8 births per woman in Comoros. By contrast, the figure was 6.4 births per woman for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

Republic of the Congo[edit]

Djibouti[edit]

Main article: Women in Djibouti

Democratic Republic of the Congo[edit]

Women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have not attained a position of full equality with men, with their struggle continuing to this day. Although the Mobutu regime paid lip service to the important role of women in society, and although women enjoy some legal rights (e.g., the right to own property and the right to participate in the economic and political sectors), custom and legal constraints still limit their opportunities.[6] From 1939 to 1943, over 30% of adult Congolese women in Stanleyville (now Kisangani) were so registered. The taxes they paid constituted the second largest source of tax revenue for Stanleyville.[6]

Egypt[edit]

Main article: Women in Egypt

From the earliest preserved archaeological records, Egyptian women have been thought to be considered nearly equal to men in Egyptian society, regardless of marital status but "women's rights law" has been introduced in an attempt to improve the status of women.

Equatorial Guinea[edit]

Eritrea[edit]

Main article: Women in Eritrea

Ethiopia[edit]

Main article: Women in Ethiopia

There have been few studies concerning women in Ethiopia, but many observers have commented on the physical hardship that Ethiopian women experience throughout their lives. Such hardship involves carrying loads over long distances, grinding corn manually, working in the homestead, raising children, and cooking. Female genital mutilation is also practiced by many of the ethnic groups.[6]

Gabon[edit]

Main article: Women in Gabon

Gambia[edit]

Main article: Women in the Gambia

Ghana[edit]

Main article: Women in Ghana

The social roles of women in Ghana have varied throughout history.

Guinea[edit]

Main article: Women in Guinea

Guinea-Bissau[edit]

Ivory Coast[edit]

Main article: Women in Ivory Coast

Women in Ivory Coast formed less than half the country's population in 2003.[7] Their social roles and opportunities have changed since the time of French colonialism.

From independence in 1961, the status of women under the law was inferior to that of men, and this continued until the 1990s. The legal changes following the death of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny brought improvement in legal and educational opportunities for women at all levels, and women have been moving into the highest levels of business and government.

Cultural traditions and practices, too, have usually marked women for inferior status. While adherence to traditional roles persists, this continuity—as well as the traditions themselves—vary greatly with place and social context. Ivory Coast has more than 60 ethnic groups, usually classified into five principal divisions: Akan (east and center, including the "Lagoon peoples" of the southeast), Krou (southwest), Mandé (Mandé west and Mandé northwest groups), and Senufo-Lobi (north center and northeast). Each of these groups has its own traditional roles for women, as do the religions practiced in the country (Christian 20-30%, Muslim 15-20%, indigenous 35-50%).

Today's northern Ivory Coast was at the periphery of the Mali Empire and the great medieval states of the Sahel, while with Portuguese (from the 1460s) and later French colonial expansion, women of the southern regions experienced wars of colonialism and resistance firsthand. In the 1970s, Ivory Coast was considered the economic leader of West Africa, but since the 1990s, poverty and conflict have increased, at times affecting women disproportionately. The interplay of all these experiences has transformed the social roles of women in Ivorian society.

Kenya[edit]

Main article: Women in Kenya
A group of women from Limuru in central Kenya, 2010.

The history of the evolution of the traits of women in Kenya can be divided into women living within traditional Swahili culture, women in British Kenya, and women living in independent Kenya from 1963 onwards.[8]

Lesotho[edit]

Main article: Women in Lesotho

Liberia[edit]

Main article: Women in Liberia

Libya[edit]

Main article: Women in Libya

The roles and status of Libyan women had then become the subject of a great deal of discussion and legal action in Libya after the change of rule, as they have in many countries of the Middle East. Some observers suggested that the regime made efforts on behalf of female emancipation because it viewed women as an essential source of labour in an economy chronically starved for workers. They also postulated that the government was interested in expanding its political base, hoping to curry favour by championing female rights. Since independence, Libyan leaders have been committed to improving the condition of women but within the framework of Arabic and Islamic values.[9] Central to the revolution of 1969 was the empowerment of women and removal of inferior status.[10]

Madagascar[edit]

Main article: Women in Madagascar

Women in Madagascar generally live longer than men, whom they outnumber. Marrying young, they are traditionally subservient to their husbands. Roughly a third have their first child before the age of 19, and those who wish to delay having children may not have access to contraceptives. Abortion is common, with an estimated 24 percent of women having had one. Although they are constitutionally equal to men, they have unequal property rights and employment opportunities in certain areas.

Malawi[edit]

Main article: Women in Malawi

Mali[edit]

Main article: Women in Mali

The status and social roles of Women in Mali have been formed by the complex interplay of a variety of traditions in ethnic communities, the rise and fall of the great Sahelien states, French colonial rule, independence, urbanisation, and postcolonial conflict and progress. Forming just less than half Mali's population, Malian women have sometimes been the center of matrialinial societies, but have always been crucial to the economic and social structure of this largely rural, agricultural society. Their role, too, has been shaped by the conflicts over religion, as animist societies gave way gradually to Islam in the 1100–1900 period. Women are today equal before the law in Mali, yet live with deep seated social and economic roles which may limit their actions.

Mauritania[edit]

Main article: Women in Mauritania

Factors that conditioned the role of women in Mauritanian society in the late 1980s included the impact of Islam and sharia (Islamic law); West African influences that allowed women substantial independence in some social and economic areas; economic modernization, which challenged customary behavior patterns in some areas; and Mauritania's rapid pace of urbanization, which subjected traditional nomadic customs to new scrutiny. Many women in such urban centers as Nouakchott, for example, were born in the rural interior of the country and found their childhood training challenged by changing urban social conditions.

Mauritius[edit]

Main article: Women in Mauritius

As in other industrializing countries, the role of women in Mauritius is changing rapidly. A major force for change has been the rapid influx of women into the many jobs created in the 1980s in the export processing zones. Although low-paying for the most part, the jobs allow women formerly confined to the roles of mother and wife to gain a certain degree of personal and social freedom.

Morocco[edit]

Main article: Women in Morocco

The African women of Morocco once lived in an era known as the Aljahilia or the Period of Ignorance prior to the introduction of Islam in Morocco. Upon the arrival of Islam, Moroccan women received the right to live, the right to be honored and to be respected as a mother, and the right to own business and be able to work. From the 1940s until Moroccan declaration of independence from the tutelage of France in 1956, Moroccan women lived in family units that are "enclosed households" or harem, The tradition of their harem lifestyle for women gradually ended upon Morocco's independence from France in 1956.[11]

Mozambique[edit]

Main article: Women in Mozambique

Namibia[edit]

Main article: Women in Namibia

Niger[edit]

Main article: Women in Niger

Women in Niger are African women wh o live in or are from the Western African country known as Niger. These women belong to a population in which 98% are practitioners of Islam. Most of the laws adopted by the government of Niger to protect the rights of Nigerien women are most of the time based on Muslim beliefs.[12]

Nigeria[edit]

Main article: Women in Nigeria

The social role of women in Nigeria differs according to religious and geographic factors. Women in Nigeria can be subdivided in women in Northern Nigeria and women in Southern Nigeria.

Rwanda[edit]

Main article: Women in Rwanda

São Tomé and Príncipe[edit]

Senegal[edit]

Main article: Women in Senegal

The traditional division of labour in Senegal saw Senegalese women as responsible for household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare. They were also responsible for a large share of agricultural work, including weeding and harvesting, for such common crops as rice. In recent decades, economic change and urbanization has led to many young men migrating to the cities, such as Dakar. Rural women have become increasingly involved in managing village forestry resources and operating millet and rice mills.[13]

The government's rural development agency aims to organize village women and involve them more actively in the development process. Women play a prominent role in village health committees and prenatal and postnatal programs. In urban areas, despite women's second-class status within Islam, cultural change has led to women entering the labour market as office and retail clerks, domestic workers and unskilled workers in textile mills and tuna-canning factories.[14]

However in traditional societies, women of the nobility used to be influent in the political scenes. That's partly due to the fact that matrilineage was the means for prince to be kings (particularly in Wolof kingdoms). Such lingeer as Yacine Boubou, Ndate Yalla and her sister Njembeut Mbodji are hailed as inspirations for contemporary Senegalese women.

Non-government organizations are also active in promoting women's economic opportunities. Micro-financing loans for women's businesses have improved the economic situation of many.[15]

Seychelles[edit]

Main article: Women in Seychelles

Women in Seychelles enjoy the same legal, political, economic, and social rights as men.[6] Seychellois society is essentially matriarchal.[6][16] Mothers tend to be dominant in the household, controlling most current expenditures and looking after the interests of the children.[6] Unwed mothers are the societal norm, and the law requires fathers to support their children.[16] Men are important for their earning ability, but their domestic role is relatively peripheral.[6] Older women can usually count on financial support from family members living at home or contributions from the earnings of grown children.[6]

Sierra Leone[edit]

Main article: Women in Sierra Leone

Since the founding of Sierra Leone in 1787 the Women in Sierra Leone have been a major influence in the political and economic development of the nation. They have also played an important role in the education system, founding schools and colleges, with some such as Hannah Benka-Coker being honoured with the erection of a statue for her contributions[17] and Lati Hyde-Forster, first woman to graduate from Fourah Bay College being honored with a doctor of civil laws degree by the University of Sierra Leone[18]

Somalia[edit]

Main article: Women in Somalia

During regular, day-to-day activities, women in Somalia usually wear the guntiino, a long stretch of cloth tied over the shoulder and draped around the waist. The guntiino is traditionally made out of plain white fabric sometimes featuring with decorative borders, although nowadays alindi, a textile common in the Horn region and some parts of North Africa, is more frequently used. The garment can be worn in many different styles and with different fabrics. For more formal settings such as weddings or religious celebrations like Eid, women wear the dirac, a long, light, diaphanous voile dress made of cotton, polyester or saree fabric. The dirac is related to the short-sleeved Arabian kaftan dress. It is worn over a full-length half-slip and a brassiere. Known as the gorgorad, the underskirt is made out of silk and serves as a key part of the overall outfit. The dirac is usually sparkly and very colorful, the most popular styles being those with guilded borders or threads. The fabric is typically acquired from Somali clothing stores in tandem with the gorgorad. In the past, dirac fabric was also frequently purchased from South Asian merchandisers.

Notable women in the country include the Federal Minister of Social Development Maryam Qaasim, Federal Foreign Minister Fowsiyo Yussuf Haji Aadan, and former Foreign Minister of the Somaliland region Edna Adan Ismail.

South Africa[edit]

Main article: Women in South Africa

In general, all racial and ethnic groups in South Africa have long-standing beliefs concerning gender roles, and most are based on the premise that women in South Africa are less important, or less deserving of power, than men. Most African traditional social organizations are male centered and male dominated. Even in the 1990s, in some rural areas of South Africa, for example, wives walk a few paces behind their husbands in keeping with traditional practices. Afrikaner religious beliefs, too, include a strong emphasis on the theoretically biblically based notion that women's contributions to society should normally be approved by, or be on behalf of, men. The British diaspora tends to be the most liberal group, including on issues pertaining to gender roles.

South Sudan[edit]

Main article: Women in South Sudan

Women in South Sudan are women who live and are from South Sudan. Since South Sudan's official declaration of independence on 9 July 2011, 5 out of 29 ministerial positions in the Government of South Sudan had been occupied by South Sudanese women. 10 out of 28 deputy ministers were held by women. The women of the Republic of South Sudan had also been active in liberation causes, by "providing food and shelters" to soldeiers and by "caring for children" and by "caring for wounded heroes and heroines" during their political struggle prior to the country's independence. An example was their formation of the Katiba Banat ("women battalion").[19]

Sudan[edit]

Main article: Women in Sudan

Sudan is a developing nation that faces many challenges in regards to gender inequality. Freedom House gave Sudan the lowest possible ranking among repressive regimes during 2012.[20] South Sudan received a slightly higher rating but it was also rated as "not free".[20] In the 2013 report of 2012 data, Sudan ranks 171st out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI).[21] Sudan also is one of very few countries that are not a signatory on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).[22]

Despite all of this, there have been positive changes in regards to gender equality in Sudan. As of 2012, women comprise 24.1% of the National Assembly of Sudan.[23] Sudanese women comprise a larger percentage of the national parliament than many Westernized nations. Though, gender inequalities in Sudan, particularly as they pertain to Female Genital Cutting and the disparity of women to men in the labor market, have received attention in the international community.

Swaziland[edit]

Main article: Women in Swaziland

Tanzania[edit]

Main article: Women in Tanzania

Women in Tanzania fit a variety of different social roles.

Togo[edit]

Main article: Women in Togo

Tunisia[edit]

Main article: Women in Tunisia

Since the January 2011 revolution in Tunisia and protests across North Africa and the Middle East region (MENA) began, many Western news sources have published articles discussing the unprecedented role that Tunisian women played in the protests. Many of these articles highlight some of the secular freedoms instituted by Habib Bourguiba in 1956, such as access to higher education, the right to file for divorce, and certain job opportunities. In fact, he made these reforms while still declaring that Tunisia was an Islamic State. It is true that women in Tunisia have enjoyed these freedoms and rights, rights that are often denied to women in neighboring countries. However, women in Tunisia live within an oscillating society that at times encourages strict abidance to Islamic law.

Uganda[edit]

Main article: Women in Uganda

The roles of Ugandan women were clearly subordinate to those of men, despite the substantial economic and social responsibilities of women in Uganda's many traditional societies. Women were taught to accede to the wishes of their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sometimes other men as well, and to demonstrate their subordination to men in most areas of public life. Even in the 1980s, women in rural areas of Buganda were expected to kneel when speaking to a man. At the same time, however, women shouldered the primary responsibilities for childcare and subsistence cultivation, and in the twentieth century, women had made substantial contributions to cash-crop agriculture.[6]

Western Sahara[edit]

Zambia[edit]

Main article: Women in Zambia

Zimbabwe[edit]

Main article: Women in Zimbabwe

States with limited recognition[edit]

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[edit]

Women in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic are women who were born in, who live in, or are from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) in the region of the Western Sahara. In Sahrawi society, the women share responsibilities at every level of its community and social organization.[24] Article 41 of the Constitution of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic ensures that the state will pursue "the promotion of women and [their] political, social and cultural participation, in the construction of society and the country's development".

Dependencies and other territories[edit]

France[edit]

Mayotte[edit]

Main article: Women in Mayotte

Réunion[edit]

Main article: Women in Réunion

Portugal[edit]

Madeira[edit]
Main article: Women in Madeira

Spain[edit]

Canary Islands[edit]
Ceuta[edit]
Main article: Women in Ceuta
Melilla[edit]
Main article: Women in Melilla
Plazas de soberanía[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Ascension Island[edit]
Saint Helena[edit]
Main article: Women in Saint Helena
Tristan da Cunha[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lowe, Christian (6 August 2009). "Algeria's women police defy danger and stereotypes". Reuters. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  2. ^ Slackman, Michael (26 May 2007). "Algeria's quiet revolution: Gains by women". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Human Rights Violations in Benin". ALTERNATIVE REPORT TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  4. ^ "2010 Human Rights Report: Benin". Us Department of State. Retrieved January 11, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Rural Poverty in Chad". Rural poverty portal. International fund for agricultural development. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Alden Almquist. "The Status of Women". Zaire: A country study (Sandra W. Meditz and Tim Merrill, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (December 1993).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "Overview: Côte d'Ivoire Data extracted "from the publication Country Profiles for Population and Reproductive Health, Policy Developments and Indicators 2005, produced jointly by UNFPA and Population Reference Bureau."". United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  8. ^ Gatwiri Kariuki, Claris. "WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN THE KENYAN SOCIETY". Issue 296 December 22– 28, 2010. The African Executive. Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Helen Chapin Metz (2004). Libya. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 111–115. ISBN 978-1-4191-3012-0. 
  10. ^ "Libya", Peter Malcolm, Elizabeth Losleben. Marshall Cavendish, 2004. ISBN 0-7614-1702-8, ISBN 978-0-7614-1702-6. p. 73, 76, 78
  11. ^ "Women in Morocco". THIRDEYEMOM. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "Islam and Women in Niger". The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "Culture of Senegal". Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Culture of Senegal". Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Senegal's women find a way out of poverty". Toronto Star. 18 April 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Seychelles (2007) Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (March 11, 2008). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  17. ^ Hafkin, Nancy Jane (1976). Edna G. Bay, ed. Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change. Stanford University Press. p. 218. ISBN 978-0804710114. 
  18. ^ Fyle, Magbaily C. (2005). Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone (New ed.). Scarecrow. p. 71. ISBN 978-0810853393. 
  19. ^ Mabor, Beny Gideon. Women and Political Leadership in Africa: A demand In South Sudan transitional democracy, Sudan Tribune.
  20. ^ a b "Freedom in the World 2013: Democratic Breakthroughs in the Balance". Freedom House. p. 17. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  21. ^ MDG, Report (2009). "Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals". Economic Commission for Africa. 
  22. ^ CEDAW. "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination". United Nations. 
  23. ^ Human Development Report (2012). "The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World". United Nations Development Programme. 
  24. ^ Donati, Simone. Saharawi, Terra Project Photographers.

External links[edit]