AD291: Limits of gender equality: Poor, uneducated Mozambicans less likely to see improvement

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Sadhiska Bhoojedhur and Thomas Isbell

Gender equality is enshrined in Mozambique’s Constitution and promoted through its participation in international conventions and treaties as well as its 2004 Family Code, which requires equality in property and family law, including sharing of assets within marriage (International Federation for Human Rights, 2007; UN Women, 2012). During the launch of a National Plan of Action on Women, Peace, and Security in June 2018, the Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Welfare reiterated the government’s commitment to promoting gender equality, emphasizing that equal participation of men and women in all spheres of society is a prerequisite for sustainable development (AllAfrica, 2018).

Yet gender disparities are a persistent reality for many women in Mozambique, in forms ranging from child marriage and teen pregnancy to domestic violence and sexual abuse (Cumbe, Materula, Sadler, & Agosta, 2017; Christensen, 2018). According to a United Nations Country Team report (2013), more than half of Mozambican women report having suffered some form of physical, sexual, or psychological violence, and almost three-fourths of girls said they were aware of cases of sexual abuse and harassment in their schools. Mozambique ranks 138th out of 164 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s (2018) Gender Development Index, and especially in the North and in rural areas, traditional patriarchal values remain strong (Tvedten, 2011).

In leadership roles, Mozambican women are better represented than women in many other African countries: 40% of the Mozambican Parliament are women (World Bank, 2018). However, while the Global Gender Gap Report ranked Mozambique No. 1 in Africa in 2008 in terms of economic participation and opportunity, by 2018 the country had dropped to No. 7 (No. 49 in the world) because of setbacks in women’s labour-force participation, particularly in senior and managerial positions (World Economic Forum, 2008, 2018).

According to the latest Afrobarometer survey, a majority of Mozambicans think gender equality has been achieved with regard to education, work, and land, and give the government good marks on promoting opportunities for women. However, poor and lesseducated citizens are considerably less likely to perceive progress on gender equality. Moreover, Mozambicans’ support for equality is uneven: While most endorse equality in access to land and political leadership, majorities prioritize men when it comes to getting a job and say families are better off if a woman, rather than a man, takes care of home and children.