Girls collecting water in Uganda @Amina Mohamed Photography

Why Is There A Significant Gender Gap For Women in Africa

In Africa, girls and women face many challenges that prevent them from achieving their full potential and equaling the gender gap. The progress is slow but they are making progress to overcome this gender gap that affects women’s participation in the labour force, education, and economic decision-making.

This blog looks at the numerous reasons that a significant gender gap or gender inequality still exists for women across Africa.

Two Girls in Uganda @Amina Mohamed Photography

Two Girls in Uganda, @Amina Mohamed Photography

Widespread Poverty and Poor Education

The lack of educational resources is tied to widespread poverty and gender inequality in Africa. A low level of education makes women more vulnerable, both economically and otherwise. And many families do not educate their daughters because they are viewed as economic burdens on their family. Education helps individuals recognize that women can contribute positively to society, which isn’t widely acknowledged in places like Uganda, where there’s a significant gender gap for women. Improved education for both men and women can help curb poverty, reduce child mortality rates, improve health outcomes, and spur development.

While both genders suffer financially, it’s typically women who take on more responsibility for their families due to their husbands or fathers earning less money. In some parts of Africa, both men and women make less than $1.25 a day. In these regions, women may not have access to money as often as men because they’re tasked with collecting water, food and firewood for their families.

Domestic Violence

More than one-third of women in Africa experience domestic violence and physical or sexual abuse. This issue disproportionately affects women because they are more likely to depend on their spouses and have little support outside of them. When you couple that with gender inequality, it creates an environment where violence against women is easily tolerated and becomes the norm. Some domestic violence cases aren’t even considered criminal offences—which means victims are blamed for inciting abuse and don’t get adequate protection from police or other authorities. Therefore, women are less likely to report gender-based violence when it happens because they know there will be few consequences for their perpetrators.

In addition to rape, many women are subjected to physical violence within their homes. According to UNICEF, 44% of married women experience domestic violence at some point in their lives. Because of gender inequality, domestic violence thrives as an acceptable practice all over Africa and leaves many with untreated injuries and mental trauma. Of course, there are programs devoted to preventative education and support for victims of domestic abuse, but it is essential not to forget that gender equality is foundational. With more equitable opportunities for education and empowerment will come the self-confidence needed for women across Africa to end abusive relationships without fear of reprisal.

Girls collecting water in Uganda @Amina Mohamed Photography

Girls collecting water in Uganda @Amina Mohamed Photography

Early Marriage

Africa is said to have more child brides than any other region worldwide. One study found that more than 60% of girls between ages 15 and 19 were married before age 18. Early marriage is a problem for many reasons, but one stands out: It limits girls’ education and economic opportunities, effectively sealing their fate as unpaid workers. Studies show that girls who marry before 18 are four times less likely to complete secondary school than those who marry later—which means they’re less likely to be economically self-sufficient. Once women are married, it’s hard for them to go back to school or work outside their homes. In addition to education, choosing when you get married could be essential for reaching economic empowerment.

Furthermore, when a woman marries later, she teaches her daughter the same, thereby increasing also her daughter’s economic potential. It’s a cycle that must be reversed to move women forward while empowering them to make this critical decision, one way or another, that could affect the rest of their lives.

Sadly across Africa, 14 million girls under 18 are living with HIV. Many young people start having sex at the age of 12, and parents often arrange early marriages to hide sexual activity from family members or protect their daughters’ reputations. These two realities have severe impacts on gender inequality and women’s health, particularly as it relates to HIV/AIDS and STIs. Early marriage makes it more difficult for girls to stay in school, which then lowers their chance of getting good jobs later in life—jobs that would allow them control over their sexual health and give them independence from male partners who could put them at risk for HIV/AIDS or other STIs.

Conflicts, Disease, Rape

According to Amnesty International, there has been a significant increase in violence against women and girls, which is often associated with war, human trafficking, lack of education about women’s rights, etc. Coupled with the economic impact of COVID, things have worsened for girls and women in many African countries. 

Countries with high gender inequality will restrict inheritance rights for widows or wives of deceased husbands. They limit married women’s property rights – South Africa is an excellent example of this. There, married women are not allowed to have bank accounts without their husband’s permission. Women must seek out the same opportunities, such as education, to influence change at all levels of society, not only for themselves but for other females too.

Male Roles in African Cultures

In many African cultures, tradition still plays an essential role in the daily lives of men and boys. Some males are raised to believe that men should be the dominant figure in the house, but others embrace changes in social norms, especially when the household has more females than males.

While gender inequality is a global problem, it is also important to note that various specific issues in Africa lead to a difference in the quality of life for men and women. Many believe African women are weaker and less worthy than their male counterparts, suggesting they not pursue higher education. As a result, many African women have few options except marriage or self-employment. Without security and power, these women often fall victim to gender-based violence, including rape and domestic abuse. Focusing on gender roles and the general outlook of those roles in African culture can be crucial for the solution to gender equality.

Two girls selling shoes in front of the family shop in Uganda @Amina Mohamed Photography

Inequality of Opportunity and Access to Jobs

Addressing gender inequality is an ongoing process that requires making opportunities available equally regardless of gender and addressing social norms that perpetuate gender roles within communities. In many parts of Africa, gender inequality is deeply entrenched. There are far fewer jobs available for women than there are for men. Those few opportunities usually come with some pretty big stipulations, such as only allowing women to hold office positions if they wear skirts or dresses and not allowing them to work outside of office hours. In countries where cultural norms restrict women’s ability to get an education or participate in specific jobs, it’s more difficult for women to pull themselves out of poverty and break down barriers that keep them on a lower economic level than their male counterparts.

Furthermore, if a woman gets a job, she is typically paid 17-35% less than her male counterpart for the same position. She is also, in some cases, offered the job if she pays for it with money or sex, therefore increasing her odds of chasing self-employed income, which also comes with its challenges.

Lack of Support

As African women are fighting for gender equality, it’s also evident that the battle lacks support from their male counterparts. According to New Vision, women earn less than men across Africa. Only 40% of women have jobs in Uganda, while 66% of men do. However, if Ugandan men worked alongside women, Africa’s gender inequality would likely decrease.

The fight for gender equality must come as a systemic change. It must start with young girls, supported by both parents, the education system, the government and especially by males in the society. From there, they can grow into resilient, empowered women.

Where Do We Go From Here? What Can I Do To Help?

The issue of gender inequality across Africa is complex, but progress has been made. We’ve seen more women participate in politics, business and academia. We’ve seen laws passed to protect domestic violence and gender-based violence victims. But despite these advancements, significant change will take time and continued efforts from governments across Africa to ensure that all men and women have access to opportunity—not just some. If we work together to secure economic empowerment for women across Africa, it will improve women’s lives and close the gender gap.

While both genders suffer financially, it’s typically women who take on more responsibility for their families due to their husbands or fathers earning less money. In some parts of Africa, both men and women make less than $1.25 a day. In these regions, women may not have access to money as often as men because they’re tasked with collecting water, food and firewood for their families.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.