Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

21st Century Progress in Africa: Achieving MDG 3 in Senegal

September 19, 2013

Fourteen African countries have a higher proportion of women in Parliament than the UK and the average in developed countries. Many countries in Africa are making fast progress on increasing the number of girls attending primary school and the number of women in Parliament, two key measures of gender equality and women’s empowerment. One of these countries is Senegal.

 The new government in Senegal has made provisions to facilitate land ownership for women in rural areas. In addition, the government recently reformed the nationality code to allow all Senegalese women to pass on their nationality to their children.

In 2012, Senegal held its first legislative elections since enacting a landmark gender parity law, which requires political parties to ensure that at least half their candidates in local and national elections are women. This resulted in the proportion of female lawmakers increasing from 22% to 43%. Senegal now has a female Prime Minister, Aminata Touré.

Senegal has also achieved the Millennium Development Goal of equality between the number of girls and boys enrolling in primary school. In fact, now slightly more girls than boys enroll in primary school, although more boys than girls complete primary school. About one third of sub-Saharan African countries are on track to achieve gender parity in primary school enrollment by 2015. However, Africa still has much further to go for parity between girls and boys in secondary and tertiary education.

This progress on promoting gender equality and empowering women is a fundamental issue of fairness, but it’s also well known to be one of the smartest investments in economic and social development. Girls and women with more education delay marriage and pregnancy, leading to lower likelihood of maternal and child death. Mothers with more years of education have the skills necessary to compete for high-skilled and well-paid jobs and will therefore be in a better position to feed, care for and educate their children.

Millennium Development Goal 3 measures progress using a few specific indicators–gender equality in education, parliament and wage employment. But women’s empowerment certainly also requires other things. Cultural practices, including early marriage, still impede progress in many countries.

The new government in Senegal has made provisions to facilitate land ownership for women in rural areas. In addition, the government recently reformed the nationality code to allow all Senegalese women to pass on their nationality to their children. 

Access to family planning information, supplies and services is also a vital component of women’s ability to make crucial decisions about their own lives. And on this, Senegal is being very innovative, with strong backing by the Minister of Health, Awa Marie Coll-Seck and now the new Prime Minister.

In June this year, Melinda Gates returned to Senegal to witness the progress that was being made with the "informed push distribution" system for ensuring that health clinics are always well stocked with the full range of modern contraceptives. Instead of the clinics relying on health workers to manage, order and pick up supplies, a private distributor is contracted to deliver supplies on a scheduled basis and collect data on products sold at facilities to inform adequate stock levels and future needs. Clinic stock-outs of contraceptives have been eliminated in the four regions where this approach has been implemented. The government has a plan to roll this system out nationally, to help to achieve its goal to more than double the percentage of women using modern contraceptives between 2012 and 2015 from 12% to 27%. Early results give hope that reaching this ambitious goal is possible.

 
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