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10 fast - many startling - facts about women in Africa

Here at Africa Check we often come across all manner of facts about women in the four countries we currently work in - Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal.

Some, however, are more startling than others.

As the world marks International Women’s Day, which this year is focused on pushing for better gender balance, we dug up 10 of them.

1: Do women in South Africa earn 27% less than men, as an international car maker claimed in 2017? We haven’t seen newer data, but the country’s statistics office found a pay gap of 23% in 2015. The pay gap has differed based on how a study is designed, but what has been consistent from research is a notable difference in what women and men take home.

2: Women in Nigeria will be looking with renewed interest at the composition of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet. While on the campaign trail for his first term, he promised to implement Nigeria’s National Gender Policy which seeks to ensure women have equal access to opportunities.

As part of this, 35% of appointees would be women. But only six of 37 members in his first cabinet in 2015 were women, falling to five at the end of his term.

3: Senegal has just voted in February 2019 elections. But did women represent an eye-popping “75% of the electorate, as the Senegalese Women's Council recently estimated? The correct number is still a healthy 50%.

4: Do mothers in Kenya’s better-resourced capital of Nairobi have a higher chance of dying during childbirth than those in the remote county of Mandera? So claimed Nairobi governor Mike Sonko in 2017, but rather surprisingly the data is inconclusive. What is certain is that maternal mortality is still unacceptably high - at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births between 2007 and 2014.

5: Nearly three in every four (72.5%) teachers on the state’s payroll in South Africa are women. But a significant gender gap then emerges. According to the most recent data only 37.3% of school principals as at June 2018 were women- a share that has barely moved the needle since 2004, when it was at 34%.

6: Are more than a quarter of Nigerian women -27%- are still subjected to genital mutilation? This a national newspaper said in 2018. While the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation is still an accepted part of many Nigerian cultures, is it this high? While the number is falling, it is still at a high 18.4%. (Another statistic that would concern many is that 47.7% of Nigerian women aged 20 to 49 years were married before their 18th birthday.)

7: Have seven in 10 females in Nairobi’s Kibera slum have traded sex for sanitary pads, as a British online newspaper shockingly claimed in September 2018? Happily, turns out this was a statistic with no grounding - no research shows this. Government efforts to provide pads to girls have largely paid off, researchers told Africa Check.

8: Do 34.1% of women in South Africa smoke (compared to 49% of men)? Those stats from The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World were quite notable, but the research had a number of issues, experts said. Better data shows the share of women smokers was 8.1% in 2017, and has remained quite constant since 2008 when it was 9.7%.

9: Are one in every three Senegalese women (35%) married before they reach their 18th birthday? Unfortunately yes, the correct number is 31.5%. In Nigeria, it is even higher - 47.7% of Nigerian women aged 20 to 49 years were married before their 18th birthday.

10: The face of unemployment in Kenya -as in many other countries - is female. Of Kenya’s 17.9 million employed people, less than half (8.7 million) were women, according to the most recent data from the national statistics office. The majority of the unemployed (64.5%) and the underemployed ( (60.5%)) are also women.

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