Women in Senegal
Senegalese women
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)370 (2010)
Women in parliament41.6% (2012)
Women over 25 with secondary education4.6% (2010)
Women in labour force66.1% (2011)
Gender Inequality Index[1]
Value0.530 (2021)
Rank131st out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[2]
Value0.670 (2022)
Rank112th out of 146
Poet Phyllis Wheatley, born in Senegal and sold as a slave in Boston in 1761.
A Matriarch in Ibel, Senegal.
Senegalese cuisine.
Penda Mbow, historian and activist.
Stylist Oumou Sy in Dakar in 2007.
Football players on the beach at Ngor

Women in Senegal have a traditional social status as shaped by local custom and religion. According to 2005 survey, the female genital mutilation prevalence rate stands at 28% of all women in Senegal aged between 15 and 49.[3]


The traditional division of labour in Senegal saw women responsible for household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare. They were also responsible for a large share of agricultural work, including weeding and harvesting, for such common crops as rice. Women of the nobility used to be influential in political scenes. This is partly because matrilineage was the means for a prince to become king (particularly in the Wolof kingdoms). Such lingeer as Yacine Boubou, Ndate Yalla and her sister Njembeut Mbodji are hailed as inspirations for contemporary Senegalese women.

In recent decades, economic change and urbanization has led to many young men migrating to the cities, such as Dakar. Rural women have become increasingly involved in managing village forestry resources and operating millet and rice mills.[4] The government's rural development agency aims to organize village women and involve them more actively in the development process. Women play a prominent role in village health committees and prenatal and postnatal programs. In urban areas, despite women's second-class status within Islam, cultural change has led to women entering the labour market as office and retail clerks, domestic workers and unskilled workers in textile mills and tuna-canning factories.[4]

Non-government organizations are also active in promoting women's economic opportunities. Micro-financing loans for women's businesses have improved the economic situation of many.[5]

Senegal ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the additional protocol. Senegal is also a signatory of the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, which was adopted during the 2003 African Union Summit. However, Senegalese feminists have been critical of the government's lack of action in enforcing the protocols, conventions and other texts that have been signed as a means of protecting women's rights.[6]

Women's rights

Women in Senegal face a number of disparities in their social status. Women have high rates of illiteracy. They make up less than 10% of the formal labour force. Female genital mutilation is a persistent practise in some rural areas, despite being outlawed by the constitution of 2001.[7] Women's legal rights are similar via polygyny marriages, and Islamic law involving property ownership.

Female genital mutilation

Further information: Prevalence of female genital mutilation by country

Female genital mutilation is present in Senegal.[8] According to 2005 survey, the FGM prevalence rate is 28% of all women aged between 15 and 49.[3] There are significant differences in regional prevalence. FGM is most widespread in the Southern Senegal (94% in Kolda Region) and in Northeastern Senegal (93% in Matam Region).[9][3]

FGM rates are lower in other regions: Tambacounda (86%), Ziguinchor (69%), and less than 5% in Diourbel and Louga Regions. Senegal is 94% Muslim (FGM is not an Islamic practice) The FGM prevalence rate varies by religion: 29% of Muslim women have undergone FGM, 16% of Animists, and 11% of Christian women.[9][3]

Notable people

Religious figures

Female politicians


Female writers







See also




  1. ^ "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 2 January 2023.
  2. ^ "Global Gender Gap Report 2022" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 27 February 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Female Genital Mutilation in Senegal Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (September 2011)
  4. ^ a b "Culture of Senegal". Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  5. ^ "Senegal's women find a way out of poverty". Toronto Star. April 18, 2010. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  6. ^ "Civil society, media women seek enforcement of texts on women's rights". Afrique en ligne. Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  7. ^ "Being a woman in Senegal". Retrieved August 13, 2011.
  8. ^ "FGC Prevalence Rates Diagram", African Women's Health Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, accessed 7 September 2011.
  9. ^ a b FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION/CUTTING: A Statistical Exploration UNICEF (2010); see Table 1C, page 34