Thursday, September 21, 2006

Life for Africa's women

Paul Vallely:

Women work two-thirds of Africa's working hours, and produce 70 per cent of its food, yet earn only 10 per cent of its income, and own less than 1 per cent of its property. They work three hours a day longer than the average British woman does on professional and domestic work combined.

The health of an African woman:

African women's health is particularly poor. Only 37 per cent survive to the age of 65, compared with almost 90 per cent in the UK. A poor woman in Malawi is 200 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than a woman in the UK. Some 250,000 women die each year from complications compared to just 1,500 in Europe.

Education in Africa:

In Africa, one in three children does not go to school. Two thirds of the 40 million non-attenders are girls and the illiteracy among women in places such as Mozambique is double that of men.

Healthcare in Africa:

One in six children in Africa dies before their fifth birthday. Average spending on health per person in Africa in 2001 was between $13 and $21; in the developed world it is more than $2,000 per person per year. African health systems are at the point of collapse after years of massive under-investment.

Widowhood in Africa:

Women are the backbone of Africa's rural economy. They grow at least 70 per cent of its food and are responsible for half the animal husbandry. Most of what they earn is spent on the household and children; men, by contrast, spend a significantly higher amount on themselves.

Yet on widowhood many African women lose their meagre assets. A Namibian study showed 44 per cent of widows lost cattle, 28 per cent lost livestock and 41 per cent lost farm equipment in disputes with their in-laws after the death of their husbands. In many African countries, they lose all rights to cultivate their husband's land.

HIV and the African woman:

Of the 25 million people living with HIV and Aids in Africa, nearly 57 per cent are women. That figure rises to 80 per cent among those aged 15 to 19. Women have a greater biological vulnerability to the virus but the main problem is powerlessness. They are forced into sexual activity earlier, are unable to insist on condoms, have fewer rights and resources to call upon, and are sometimes forced to barter sexual favours to survive. "This is my choice: either I get Aids eventually or my baby starves now," as one Kenyan prostitute put it.

An HIV-positive woman is nearly 10 times as likely to experience violence at the hands of her partner as a woman who does not have the disease. Domestic violence causes more deaths and disability among women aged 15 to 44 worldwide than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war. In at least 20 African countries, more than half the women have also suffered female genital mutilation.

Marriage in Africa: Women Unable to Divorce Easily

Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Female genital mutilation

Genital mutilation 'still common'

New study shows female genital mutilation exposes women and babies to significant risk at childbirth

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