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Women, the motor of development

By Cecile Sow
Posted on Friday, 21 November 2008 00:00

“If you want your husband to respect you, you have to study and work hard”, says Aïssatou, maths student at the University of Conakry, without hesitation. She’s attending the second job fair organised on campus.

She and her friends are barely 20, all wearing tight jeans and sexy tops. But behind their declarations of independence lies the tough reality of life for women in Guinea.

Illiteracy among women is at 79 per cent, against 44 per cent for men. Over 60 per cent of women attend primary school, but this drops to 28 per cent in secondary and just 12 per cent at university level.

In the public sector they represent just 22 per cent of staff and in the private sector, just 9%, mostly at subordinate level. Almost half of female injuries are from the hands of men and 98 per cent of Guinean women have been subjected to circumcision.

Twice as many women than men have HIV and one girl in three has a child by the age of 17. Maternal mortality is 528 women per 100,000 births.

More and more women have jobs, and a growing number of high profile appointments have helped break barriers, amongst them members of parliament, ministers, doctors, lawyers and teachers.

Oumoul Kirami Bah, director of CABLE-Guinée, does not have to struggle to gain the respect of her 200 mainly male employees. “When a woman is competent, she does not have trouble imposing herself; that is why young girls should study hard,” Bah says.

For her, the hardest thing is access to credit: “The banks don’t support women even though there are more and more of us working in areas like agro-industry and building, which need serious capital outlay.”

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