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AfDB country gender profiles highlight prevalence of stereotypes

African women are still disproportionately affected by poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating gender equalities, according to new African country gender profiles developed by the African Development Bank.

The AfDB released country gender profiles for Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger and Chad, which examine the state of gender equality in each designated country and provide concrete recommendations for governments, the Bank and development partners to accelerate gender equality in key sectors.

The country gender profiles were prepared in collaboration with the Bank’s Regional Member Countries, civil society organisations and development partners like UN Women.  

The profiles found that gender stereotypes are present in most countries and have a negative impact on women’s lives and livelihoods. Some of these impacts include a rise in gender-based violence, the heightened load of unpaid work and loss of livelihoods due to over-representation in the informal sector. The profiles call for gender issues to be prioritised in the COVID-19 recovery processes.

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Vanessa Moungar, director of the AfDB’s gender, women and civil society department, commented: “The country gender profiles aim to spark dialogue and support evidence-based reform on gender equality at national level. The profiles are a guide to inform development policy makers and enrich development programs to better address gender disparities.”

Despite the gloomy picture, the reports show that there has been improvement in African countries’ ability to address discriminatory laws and policies. Also, the four countries covered in the publications have national gender policies and specific institutional mechanisms dedicated to gender equality.

Highlights from the country gender profiles

Burkina Faso: Women’s enterprises dominate trade (65.4%) in the informal sector. Women engaged in cross-border trade have been particularly vulnerable financially because of border closures. The Burkina Faso gender profile recommends that case transfers programmes  are key to easing the financial burden and helping female informal works to sustain their income-generating activities.

Chad: Early marriage is very common and it is estimated that about 67% of girls are married before the age of 18, 30% before the age of 15. Cases of early marriage are expected to rise because of school closures. The Chad gender profile recommends increase support to women’s associations/ civil society to provide adequate support to girls and women.

Niger: The primary school completion rate for girls is 73%, compared to 88% for boys, in the landlocked West African country. This drops to 59% for girls in rural areas and school and education institution closures during epidemics tends to increase girl dropout rates. This is because girls are expected to take on domestic responsibilities and their return to formal schooling is not certain after crises. The Niger gender profile recommends support to government in order to roll out targeted programmes that ensure all girls return to school.,

Malawi: 59% of women reported they are not paid for their labour, compared to 26% of men and the pandemic has exacerbated women’s unpaid workload. The Malawi gender profile suggest enhanced dialogue is needed to facilitate changing gender norms through men’s groups challenging the status quo.

Amel Hamza, AfDB division manager for gender and women empowerment, said: “Gender data and analysis are critical but remain limited, slowing the achievement of the gender agenda. These reports, we hope, will help address this important challenge.”

The AfDB started creating country gender profiles in 2004 and the latest four publications in the series are part of the Bank’s rollout of its new Gender Strategy for 2021-2025, subtitled Investing in Africa’s women to accelerate inclusive growth.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.