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African Women See More Rights on Paper – But Where Are The Benefits?

A new study by the research group AfroBarometer finds that despite a flurry of new laws against gender violence, for political participation and other benefits, Africa's women still suffer a disadvantage in education, jobs and political participation – three major areas.

Afrobarometer surveyed more than 50,000 people in 34 countries for its report. It found women across Africa are less likely than men to register to vote, and are significantly less likely to participate politically, such as protesting, contacting leaders or attending community meetings.

"Women seem to still be facing discrimination, not only in the workplace, but also in the courts and in their communities," said Samantha Richmond, one of the report's authors, who is based in Cape Town.

In a listing of key findings, the researchers found that "Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of women in 34 countries say women should have the same rights as men rather than being subject to traditional law. In 15 countries where Afrobarometer asked about equal rights since 2002, support for equality increased, from 68 percent in 2002 to 73 percent in 2012.

Similarly, 68 percent believe women are as capable as men of being political leaders, including fully 74 percent of East Africans, but just 50 percent of North Africans. Yet, across 34 countries, 26 percent of women reported never having any formal education, compared with 19 percent among men. Sixteen percent of men have post-secondary schooling, compared with just 11 percent of women.

Women are also less likely to exercise their political rights than men. They are less likely to be registered to vote (8 percent unregistered for women, vs. 5 percent for men) and less likely to say they vote (68 percent vs. 73 percent). Women are also significantly less likely to contact leaders or to engage in other forms of political participation.

Women fare markedly worse in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia). These countries collectively report the lowest levels of support for women's leadership, and the highest frequency of discrimination.

There are also wide gaps between men and women on many issues, including the ability of women to serve as president or prime minister of a Muslim country (55 percent support among women, 36 percent among men) and support for equal rights for women in initiating a divorce.



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