The West African Woman: Trends in Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Political Leadership

Stemming from narrow beliefs that limit the role of women to the domestic sphere, women in West Africa have traditionally been marginalized in economic and political spheres. The consequence of this marginalization results in limited investment into viable areas of women’s human potential outside of the home.

In recent years, there has been some progress within the region, highlighted by the election of the first female president in Africa. However, the exceptional success stories that exist may mask the much more common gender disparities in the region. Much more progress is needed before we can say that the futures of the region’s women rest in their own hands, because in most West African societies, men still control the bulk of resources and decision-making power that affect the opportunities availed to women.

This issue explores the future of the West African woman from three perspectives. The first article looks at trends in women’s labor participation. The second article examines women and entrepreneurship, and the third article looks at the trends in women’s political leadership.

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