#IWD2019: 10 fast – and sometimes startling – facts about women in Africa

As the world marks International Women’s Day, we dug up notable facts gleaned from our work in fact-checking.

At Africa Check we often come across all manner of facts about women in the four countries we 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 facts from our archives.

  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 (16%) 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 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 according to the most recent data only 37.3% of school principals as at June 2018 were women. It’s a small increase from 2004, when it was at 34%.

    Practices still resilient

  6. Are more than a quarter of Nigerian women (27%) still subjected to genital mutilation? This a national newspaper said in 2018. The harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation is still an accepted part of many Nigerian cultures,but the most recent data puts the figure at a high 18.4%.
  7. Have seven in 10 females in Nairobi’s Kibera slum traded sex for sanitary pads, as a British online newspaper shockingly claimed in September 2018? Happily, it turned out that this was a statistic with no grounding. Government efforts to provide pads to girls have largely paid off, experts 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 married before they reach their 18th birthday? Unfortunately yes, the exact 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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