Senegal may not be the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of gender equality in Africa. Rwanda with its majority women parliament is often mentioned, then there is President Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius. Despite its lack of acclaim, Senegal is not doing so bad according to this Al Jazeera report.

 

Like Rwanda, Senegal passed a law that mandated political parties introduce gender equality in national and local electoral processes in 2010. Today, women compose 43 percent of the Senegalese parliament, making Senegal the third country in Africa with the highest number of women in parliament.

 

Senegal is also unique in that it is a Muslim country with 92 percent of the population professing adherence to the faith. Noted as a religiously tolerant country due to the open-mindedness of its Sufi brotherhoods in the country, this may also have influence in the way gender is viewed. Senegal has witnessed an improvement in educating of women and girls, thus leading to an increase in empowerment.

 

 

Despite these gains in the political arena, it will be too soon to say that there is no gender discrimination in Senegal. Their remaining challenges are in keeping girls, especially those in the rural areas, in school. Work still needs to be done at the top level to reverse the male-dominated political scene. There have been concerns that political parties are circumventing the gender parity law by awarding positions to women who are unqualified so as to meet up with appearances. Despite a high percentage of parliamentary women, only 13 out of 557 municipalities have women as mayors.

 

Then there is a need to empower women from the bottom up, not only in terms of education but also by promoting women’s rights in the face of cultural constraints. Senegalese women still have limited access to land, and while persistent issues like polygamy and early marriages, and domestic and sexual abuse continue. Abortion rights is another contentious problem, because it is illegal some women have to endure clandestine abortion procedures, while others even resort to infanticide.

 

Is Senegal the next place to watch for gender equality in Africa? Share your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta