rose Challenges to women's rights in Senegal rose

Economy and education

The economical and educational aspects in Senegal are closely intertwined as they depend largely upon each other. They are the two most important factors that affect women’s lives and they determine, to an important extent, whether their other rights will be respected or not.


Educational aspect

Article 17
1. Every individual shall have the right to education. 2. Every individual may freely, take part in the cultural life of his community. 3. The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the community shall be the duty of the State.

(African [Banjul] Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted June 27, 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 - 1982)




The situation of girls and young women’s education in Senegal is improving overall, but at a slow pace, and with important differences between the rural and the urban areas. In 1968, girls formed 51% of the country’s population. At that time, they constituted 46% of the student body in Dakar schools, while in the other regions of the country the percentage went down to 30-40%  (overall they represented 40% of the country’s student body). In 1995, 55% of Senegalese girls were enrolled in full-time education (81% of girls in urban area and 22% of girls in rural areas), compared to 64% of boys (92% of boys in urban areas and 47% of boys in rural areas). The rural-urban split is caused by economic reasons: a number of studies demonstrated that, more than anything else (ethnic background, religion, etc), the availability of resources (proximity to Dakar or other major cities) influences women’s education and access to information (reading newspapers, listening to radio, etc.). Poverty increases inequality, and this explains why in rural areas were the income level is significantly lower than in urban areas and not enough resources are available boys are more likely to get an education than girls.
As a result of these inequalities, the adult illiteracy rate is currently 78% for women and 63% for men. 81%-90% of rural women and 54% of urban women in Senegal are illiterate. Illiteracy greatly affects women’s rights, as it limits their access to paid employment, health care and other services.



Economical aspect

Article 15
Every individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory conditions, and shall receive equal pay for equal work.

(African [Banjul] Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted June 27, 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 - 1982)

The average household size in Senegal is 8.7 people, with a 62.50% percentage of dependent persons per households. The size of the poor, rural families is bigger, with a larger proportion of young children not attending school. This demographic configuration makes rural women (who are the least likely to have access to education), more vulnerable to poverty than any other class of the Senegalese society.

Caption: Roadside vendors of cowpea (shelled and whole pods), near Thies, Senegal. Credit: J. Ehlers, UC Riverside.

The 1991 Senegal Survey demonstrated that education is the best predictor of economic success for women (educated women have greater chances to get a remunerated job, while uneducated women are employed mostly in the agricultural and informal sectors). As a result, women with no education constitute 86% of the lowest income group, and women with education constitute 41% of highest income group and 35% of the middle category. Another factor which determines the employment prospects of women, besides education, is the place of residence (and therefore availability of resources). In Dakar, 71% of women work salaried jobs, while the vast majority of rural women work in agriculture.