Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Female Empowerment In The Developing Countries Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4185 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this

Over the years, the issues of gender inequality and female empowerment in the developing countries and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular have been a call for concern by local, national, Sub-regional, regional and international Institutions and governments per se to promote development. Unlike women in the developed counties who are, in relative terms economically empowered and have a powerful voice that demands an audience, and positive action, women in the developing countries have been generally silent and their voices have been stifled by economic and cultural factors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, economic and cultural factors, coupled with institutional factors dictate gender based division of labor, rights, responsibilities, opportunities and access to and control over resources. However, literacy, education, employment, access to media as well as decision making are some of the most disputed areas of gender disparity and female empowerment in SSA. (UNDP 2005)

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

However, this project is focus to analyze why the process of gender and female empowerment is lower than expected in SSA. Therefore, to have a flexible understanding of the analyzes, the project would analyze the issues of gender and empowerment in SSA and to give attention to some country statics and analyses on gender variations in urban and rural milieus. To have a balanced presentation of the analyses, the project would make use of the modernization and inequality theory to argue the facts. Recent studies indicate that women in the developing countries and SSA in particular, lack enough access to productive resources such as land, education, employment, health services, decision making, basic human rights and harmful traditional indicators are some of the socio-economic marginalization of women in these societies.


Gender and education:

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Right acknowledged that everyone has the right to go to school (UDHR article 26), but yet educational inequality is still a major violation of rights of women and girls and an important barrier to social, economic and personal development in SSA. Since then, a number of treaties and declarations have been adopted to turn these aspirations into reality, but nevertheless discrimination on female education remains pervasive in most societies of SSA. (UNESCO 2003) According to DFID (2006), in Sub-Saharan Africa, the highest numbers of out of school girls are in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Mozambique.

Considering the case of Mozambique in SSA, gender disparity in primary, secondary and especially tertiary education continuously persist despite government and international stipulations. Following a CIA 2006 report Mozambique has a population of 19.7million and 800,000 square km. and as one of the largest poor countries in southern Africa, faces a set of unique development challenges such as physical and social-cultural infrastructure and effective local administration is far lacking behind. (CIA 2006)

A UNDP (2004) report also points out that 32 percent of the population is 6-18 years of age with annual population growth rate of 2.3 percent and child mortality rate is 152 per 1000 and most Mozambicans are not expected to survive more than 40 years of age due to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and extreme poverty which girls and women are the most vulnerable. Following a similar view, primary education is compulsory and free, but yet parents are unable to afford school needs for kids such as school uniforms, books, shoes and other related materials, because of poverty and other traditional influences and the obvious result is drop out from school and the most affected are girls. (UNDP 2004)

Generally, gender gap in access to education pronounces more in the secondary and tertiary levels in the developing countries and SSA in particular than in primary level. In an article of UNFPA (2005), based on 2001/2002 millennium indicator data base of United Nations, the ratio of female enrollment in the secondary school per 100 boys is 46 in Benin, 57 in Equatorial Guinea, 60 in Cambodia, 62 in Djibouti and 65 in Burkina Faso. The report therefore indicate that disparity in education increases at higher level of studies in most developing countries of SSA (UNFPA 2005)

Although the problem of gender disparity in education have been affected by poverty and traditional upheavals, the government and International Institutions have taken drastic measures to ensure a balance in education on both sexes in most developing societies and communities (SSA). Yet there is still a grand difference between rural and urban enrollment in most of this societies. However, the issue of gender inequality remains a fact in educational sector though might equate as time elapses in SSA.

Gender and employment:

One of the areas where there is high gender disparity between males and female in SSA is at the employment status which is manifested at occupational segregation, gender based-wage gaps, women´s misappropriate representation in the informal employment, unpaid jobs and higher unemployment ratio (UNDP 2005) “if development is not engendered it is endangered” (ibid) This means that the fact that women are under-represented in the formal sector hampers development since traditional Muslim women and rural African women are mostly engaged in domestic unpaid jobs.

As women in Sub-Saharan Africa have low status in the community, the activities they perform tend to be less valued and that explains why women´s low status is perpetrated by their low status activities (ibid). “Almost everywhere women are worst paid than men in the same work done”(Hedman 1996 p; 19) In-depth analyses on women employment status by Hindin (2005) showed that only 17% women in Zimbabwe, 12% in Zambia and 4% in Malawi are employed at higher status paid jobs meanwhile the respective percentages of women whose partners have higher status jobs are 52, 43 and 53 percentages (Hindin 2005, p; 121)

Women are overrepresented in the informal sector in the developing countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The 2009 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report holds that women in SSA have very difficult working conditions and even harsh particularly in countries with higher informal sectors. These women have undefined work places, unsafe and unhealthy working conditions and often low level of skills and productivity. They receive low or irregular incomes; have long working hours, lack access to information, market, finance training and technology. According to the same report, rural African women are the most affected by this situation, about 85 % in Somalia, 70 % in Gambia and 90 % in Zimbabwe respectively. (WEFGGR 2009)

Following a BBC world news report 2005, rural African women do not have access to media to get more information on market situation and world trends since most of them are illiterates, poor and local farmers. According to this report, less than 2% of rural Sub-Saharan African women read newspaper and women are disadvantaged with regard to women access to watch television. The report indicated that in the year 2000, among girls and women aged 6-49, only 3.6% and 6.9% had access to television in Malawi and Rwanda respectively. (BBC world news report 2005)

Employment gender segregation is mostly found in rural areas than urban cities in developing countries. Take for instance in Cameroon in SSA, employment gender related issue are lower in big cities such as Yaoundé, Douala, Baffoussam, Ebolowa, Bamenda and many other major cities than in rural outskirt villages where the main source of employment is farming. Here women do the bulk of the job though informal but are relegated at the background because of traditional beliefs. Local farming is the main source of employment, but yet traditional norms do not give women access to landownership, credit accounts and a complicated inheritance tradition is practiced. (Cameroon tribune 2004)

Gender and Decision making:

The fact that Sub-Saharan African women have low access to education, employment chances and couple with limited media access and other cultural upheavals minimizes their decision making power in general and in the household as well. (UNDP 2005) “No society treat it women the same as men” (ibid). Regarding decision making at household level, local level, community level, and national level of women in Africa, though parliamentary representation has lightly increase, no country in the world has reach gender parity level in decision making.(ibid). According to data obtain from the millennium development indicator of the United Nations; cited in UNPFA (2005) women represent 16% of world parliamentary seats, 21% in the developed world, and 14% in the developing countries. This minimal parliamentary representation of women could be due, among other issues, different electoral systems in different countries, women´s socio-economic status, socio-cultural status, traditional and other cultural beliefs of women´s place in the family and society and of course women´s double burden of work and responsibilities. (UNFPA 2005)

Women´s low decision power, particularly in SSA, is more pronounced at the rural than urban localities as well as in house hold decisions making. According to a survey carried out by Emmanuel Vasty (1993) about 50% of women in the Northern Muslim region of Nigeria stated that they cannot freely purchase children´s clothing without the full decision of their husband nor carry a child to the hospital without the authorization of their husbands. This they claim is according to Muslim tradition and beliefs that a man is superior in every aspect and therefore they have to succumb to men´s orders. (Emmanuel, 1993 p; 74)

Similarly, data of low decision power making is seen in the analyzes of Hindin (2005) in join SSA countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Somalia and Cameroon. According to Hindin analyzes, rural women are the most low powered than urban women in these conutries. In the rural villages where strong traditional beliefs prevail and are in favor of men, men are more likely to have a final say over women´s own health care, large household purchases, visiting relatives, what food to cook as well as the number of kids to bear and when to have this children. Most of these decisions are jointly made in urban households since most of the females are well exposed and educated therefore participate in household decision making. (Hindin 2005, p; 164)

Gender and poverty:

According to IFAD (2005) it is asserted that there is feminization of poverty in gender especially in SSA and mostly in local outskirt villages and around urban slumps. That generally, poverty among women is rising faster than poverty among men. Following the same IFAD survey report, the poverty level of women living in the rural areas and urban slumps increased to 48% in 1965-70 and in the mid 1980s, by comparison, the numbers of poor men were 30% within the same period. “poverty has a woman´s face-of 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70% are women” (ibid) This clearly indicate that women are the most vulnerable in extreme situations like war, disease, widowhood, poor inheritance rights, ownership of resources, and other traditional and cultural factors contribute to the high rate of female poverty level. (IFAD 2005)

“Gender subordination does not arise out of poverty per se, though a strong association is often made between gender and poverty, women are said to form the majority of the poor” according to UNDP (2004 p; 7) This means that Sub-Saharan African women despite the gender fight to reduce poverty are still subjected to poverty because of their subordinated position in the society. Developing women especially in SSA are not yet free because of strong traditional attachment and the fact that they are relegated at a private influence keep them dependant to their partners.(UNDP, 2004, p; 7)

According to Kabeer (1996) traditional subordination is the key factor of poverty among girls and women in the following developing African countries Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, Rwanda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Chad. Kabeer argue that because these countries are both made up of Muslims and Christians, women and girls in the Muslim sector of the countries are bound to be affected by poverty because of strict Muslim customs and traditions. The main source of income is by pastoral normadism in rural areas wondering from place to place in search of greener pastures for cattles. These local nomads have to move along with their wives and kids which indicate that steady education is not secured for the girls and other children and the wife depends soly on the sale of cattles for sustenance and decision on sales is carried out by the man. Therefore, the wife and kids stay poor and voiceless at the background. (Kabeer 1996, p; 89)

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

Kabeer in his analyzes further argue that rural women in developing countries especially in SSA are always affected by poverty because they are mostly engaged in non income paying jobs at the private spheres and in the household while measure financial decisions and income jobs are done by the men. In a typical traditional African setting women stay at home to take care of kids, prepare food, clean up the house, do laundry, and other domestic unpaid jobs. Meanwhile men go out there in search of income paid jobs and according to traditional beliefs a good wife is one who is not carelessly seen in public. That is why women are dumfounded with poverty and take whatever men give to them without much argument. However, some households have realized that it is necessary for women to be educated and have a job that would reduce the burden on men and relief women from poverty. (ibid)

Gender and Health:

“Gender gaps are also persistent in health status in access to health services and health outcomes” (World Bank 1993, cited in WHO 1995, p; 21) This means that the issue of gender inequality, poverty and female empowerment needs to be addressed in health status reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa and especially in the interior villages where there are little or no health services and women are badly affected during pregnancy to birth. In conformity with the same survey carried out by WHO in 1990, rural masses in SSA, over 36% of healthy lives are lost by adult women age 15-44 was caused by reproductive health problems especially maternity related causes and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) compared to only 12% for men. There is therefore a clear indication that women are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and complicated health issues especially during delivery. Following the same survey, an additional 5% of healthy life lost by women caused by domestic violence and rape. (WHO 1995, p; 21)

“It is certain that the gap between the health status of the rich and poor is at least wide like a century ago and have become wider still” (ibid) Health policies to improve the lives of the poor have been the main focus for the past 25 years and rural women are the most endangered by poor health services since most communities go without a full train medical doctor. Health diagnoses are done by traditional herbalist and women are vulnerable to more contracted and complicated health problems. (WHO 1995)

According to UNICEF (2004) the disparity between developed and developing countries maternity mortality ratio is greater than for any other indicator. Every year around 200 million women become pregnant, approximately 150 million come to terms, 20 million of the pregnancies are unsafe abortions many of which tend out to have complications, disabilities and death, of the remainder there are 500,000 maternal deaths and a further 20 million women suffer severe and disability poor pregnancy management and delivery (WHO 1994) However, the majority of the affected in maternity mortality is in the developing countries in the aforementioned statistics. It was estimated by WHO 1994 that, in Chad, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Cameroon approximately, there are 10 medical doctors per 1000 pregnant women in urban city general hospital in SSA and 1 medical doctor in a whole rural sub-division with approximated population of 5000 people. (World Bank 1994, p; 2, WHO 1995/UNICEF 1996)

Gender and Power:

The influence of power greatly affect gender relations especially in household decision making and power differ depends on the region and level of exposure of the female. From every indication, African girls and women have been deprived of their rights and power and this have been however backed by traditional justifications. This has been a prevalent in many Sub-Saharan African countries that practice patriarchal succession especially in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon respectfully. There is a traditional belief in these countries that women have to be docile, submissive, tolerant, answerable, obedient, loyal, domestic and faithful for which there is traditional justification. These superior rights given to boys by tradition compel females to be inferior and lack total power and control over their own lives and obligations. (Hirut 2004 p; 35-42)

The socialization processes that determines gender roles in Sub-Saharan Africa are partly the reasons for the subjugation of females in these countries and societies rendering them powerless to an extent. Power determines the level of inequality between sexes and power relations differ from urban to rural and the more education a female acquire the more she become empowered and ignores most traditional subordination norms. Therefore, education gives power to most females to know their rights and obligations though traditional values still prevail despite the amount of education a female acquire in SSA. The issue of power relations in most households is felt differently in urban and rural areas in SSA. (ibid)

The differences in the way individuals are treated through their socialization process, due mainly to their sex status, leads to real psychological and personality problems between males and females irrespective of their level of exposure. In most African countries, society is socialized in such a way that boys have autonomous powers and girls are rendered inferior. In the process of upbringing boys are expected to learn and become self reliant, bread winners, authoritative, decisive and responsible in different activities meanwhile girls are brought up to conform, obedient, dependant, and specialized in private spheres activities like cooking, washing clothes, fetching water, caring for children and other household domestic activities irrespective of their level of education and exposure. This traditional socialization processes and unequal opportunities have made the process of gender equality slow in most Sub-Saharan African countries. (ibid)

Gender and Culture:

The fight on gender equality and female empowerment have been greatly influenced by cultural factors in the developing countries. Most African countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast etc have diverged cultural backgrounds and have different perceptions on the issue of gender and female empowerment. (UN 2005) Traditional and religious beliefs have been the major cultural roadblocks for gender equality and female empowerment. Considering the fact that most African countries have Christians and Muslim populations, the issue of gender is more obstructed by the Muslim since Muslim norms are a taboo if disrespect. (Hirut 2004) Generally speaking, traditional norms, Muslim norms and Christian beliefs accept female subordination as a good practice and hence make it difficult for equality to reign in developing societies. (ibid)

A UNDP (2005) report indicates that female enrolment in schools is generally lower in Muslim sectors than Christians´ in countries that have both Muslim and Christian populations in SSA. This means that education which is the main tool for female empowerment and gender equality is considered wastage of resources in some Muslim communities because of stiff Islam beliefs. Christian and other traditional beliefs also favor female subordination exposing men at a dominant position causing major obstacles for female empowerment. Although more Christians and Muslim societies have realized the importance of female education that gives girls and women power through employment and exposure, other factors such as poverty and traditional mal practices are still a socio-cultural hindrance to the issue of gender and female empowerment in SSA. (ibid)


In the end, the issue on gender and female empowerment in the development process of Sub-Saharan African remains a heated debate among scholars, theorist, Institutions, researchers, Governments, NGOs and International Organizations to find a kind of approach to intrude in the cultural justification of female subordination in the development process of SSA. Contrasting studies have also questioned if the fight for gender equality and female empowerment is an actual push to enhance African development or it is just a way to impose western and North American superiority?

The question on “why is the issue of gender equality and female empowerment slower than expected” in the development process of SSA is a question of perspective. Many reasons can account for high gender inequality and low female empowerment in SSA, but this depends on which angle the problem is viewed. Throughout the project, the problem of gender inequality and slow female empowerment have been viewed at a cultural and traditional dimension explained by inequality and the modernization theory meaning that the project have choose to analyze the problems of inequality on the factors caused by culture and traditional values in SSA. That not withstanding, the same question can be analyzed by other economic and socio-political factors.

In the course of the project, a lot of factors have been illustrated as elements responsible for gender inequality and slow female empowerment in the development process of Sub-Saharan Africa. The elements analyzed by the project as responsible for high gender inequality in SSA are poverty, illiteracy, cultural barriers, traditional beliefs, disease and HIV/AIDS, unemployment, decision making and the issue of power sharing are all accountable for low female empowerment in the development process of SSA. Research have proven that the slow development process in SSA is not about gender equality, because gender inequality exist everywhere in the world, and inequality still exist among sexes regardless of the level of development a society have undergone.

In connection to the two theories used in the beginning of this project, it is crystal clear that gender inequality would still persist irrespective of the technological advancement of a society. This is clearly seen by tracing the origin of male domination, sex distinction and predisposition of men in extreme conditions as explained by the inequality theory. In the other hand, cultural roadblocks are viewed by the modernization school as the reason for wide gender gap in the development process of SSA. That notwithstanding, cultural values endures despite technological improvement in any society.

However, the issue of gender inequality needs a serious attention from both local, national, sub-regional, regional governments and International Organization to seek for alternative approaches in the development process of SSA. Although policies and institutions have been put in place pertaining women´s participation in the development process of SSA, existing programs and strategies should be reviewed to make the efforts more effective and innovative. To empower and integrate women in the fight for gender equality and the development process of SSA, the local government and International Institutions can embark on the following, intensify family planning methods, encourage more female education, fight early marriages and create conditions for women to work and earn an income, focusing on gender rural development programs especially working to bring cultural evolution toward gender equality in all aspects, and strategies of such programs should consider region specific problems i.e. customs and traditions in order to be more effective. This project ends up asking some questions for further investigation by other researchers, Can the equation of gender and female empowerment actually facilitate the development process of Africa? Or the true problems of Africa´s underdevelopment are political and economic stagnation caused by it tragic history.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: