How can Senegal continue progress towards gender equality?
Written by Réseau Siggil Jigéen and Suzanne N’Gouandi, French Speaking Communications Officer, Equal Measures 2030
As in every year, March is marked by the session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, or CSW, which aims to assess progress made and gaps to be filled with respect to the implementation of The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This year, the marks the return to face-to-face after three years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic which highlighted gender-equality shortcomings around the world.
Despite poor progress on gender equality, some countries have made significant progress.
Senegal, for example, made major progress between 2015 and 2020, as noted in the 2022 SDG Gender Index produced by Equal Measures 2030. Senegal's most-significant progress across the Sustainable Development Goals can be seen in SDG2 (nutrition) and SDG6 (water), thanks to improved indicators on undernourishment and access to drinking water.
Since its adoption of the Beijing Declaration, the Government of Senegal has made considerable efforts to promote gender equality and improve the living conditions of women. In 2010, it adopted a law on parity in elected institutions. This law helped Senegal obtain one of the best scores globally for the parliamentary representation of women. Senegal now has the highest proportion of women parliamentarians ever recorded in West Africa and is in fourth place in the African rankings for gender parity in parliament.
In addition to ratifying several international conventions in support of the promotion of women's rights, Senegal has developed a National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality (SNEEG 2016-2026) intended to ensure the full participation of women and men in decision-making processes and equitable access to resources and the benefits of development.
On the ground, civil society organizations actively work to expose gender inequalities and injustices through campaigns and advocacy. For example, data-driven advocacy has been carried out by the Réseau Siggil Jigéen (RSJ) with EM2030 support. These actions aimed at local leaders and private companies have made it possible, among other things, to increase reproductive-health funding in three Senegalese municipalities and to secure the commitment of the Mayor of Derklé to providing menstrual hygiene products to young women in his municipality (EM2030 Impact Report).
Despite these notable advances, multiple barriers to women's rights and gender equality remain. In 2022, consideration of Senegal's report to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found an imbalance in the representation of women in national and local decision-making bodies. Of the 559 local authorities in Senegal, only 15 are headed by women, a rate of 2.68%.
In addition to deficiencies in law enforcement, the prevalence of violence against women and girls in Senegal remains relatively high. Of women aged 15 to 49 years, 27% have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. Furthermore, 68% of these victims of violence say that they have never talked about it or sought help.
With regard to the achievement of SDG4 (education), Senegal has mixed results. Girls' school expectancy remains very poor, due to low national-level investment in girls' primary education.
The recommendations of Senegalese civil society
To continue progress towards gender equality, Réseau Siggil Jigéen developed a set of recommendations to give greater voice to Senegalese women and girls. The recommendations contain specific actions to be implemented in Senegal.
Women's fundamental rights
- Amend the Family Code to strengthen women's rights
- Strengthen awareness-raising programmes to combat discrimination
Violence against women
- Publicize and ensure effective enforcement of the criminal law against rape and paedophilia
- Make the assignment of lawyers to victims of rape and paedophilia mandatory
- Promote the creation of centres to shelter victims and hear their voices, for mentoring and psycho-social support
Women and health
- Provide for the management of girls' menstrual cycles in formal and non-formal educational institutions
- Ensure effective access to basic social services and medical care
- Authorise safe abortions for victims of rape and incest, and when the health of the pregnant woman or foetus is in danger
Women and decision making
- Ensure the effectiveness of the Parity Law at the local and national levels
- Improve the status of women in political parties
Despite having a legal framework conducive to the achievement of gender equality, Senegal faces a problem in the enforcement of existing laws and the persistence of discriminatory laws. Effectively implementing these recommendations will be key to achieving gender equality and to the full empowerment of women in the country.