Chapter 4: Gender inequality: A double break on poverty reduction

Key messages

  • Gender inequality limits Africa’s progress in tackling poverty in two ways. First, the continent forfeits potential growth that could have come from women who are excluded from the growth process. Second, restricting women’s access to human capital enhancing services, such as educa-tion and healthcare, limits the extent to which growth can impact on their poverty status. African women have benefited immensely from 15 years of MDG prioritisation, and from the global alliance driving their implementation. Gender gaps in education, healthcare and other wellbeing indicators have witnessed significant improvements over this period.
  • Despite these achievements, women still constitute the majority of the continent’s poor, they are more likely to drop out of school than boys, less likely to be employed in the formal sector and the risk of maternal mortality remains high in many countries. Gender inequalities in agriculture are characterised by unequal access to agricultural inputs such as land, fertilizers, and finance. Women who depend on agriculture and do not own land for this purpose are more vulnerable to domestic violence. Women dominate in vulnerable employment, with most of them working in seasonal, petty trading of agricultural products.
  • Up to 50% of women in some countries are victims of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence are less likely to be in control of their own reproductive decisions, which also has negative consequences on children. Because the fate of women determines the fate of the continent’s next generation, undermining their role in today’s development could reduce the continent’s future growth prospects.
  • Empowering women through education (secondary school or beyond) and employment in the formal sector limits their vulnerability to violence from their partners. Closing the gender gap in education is, therefore, a powerful strategy in addressing violence against women.