Women's political and reproductive health empowerment in Africa: A literature review

Maty Konte, Victor Osei Kwadwo & Tatenda Zinyemba


This chapter reviews recent literature on the determinants of women's political and reproductive-health empowerment in Africa and tracks the progress that has been made during the Millennium Development Goals period and onwards. The chapter highlights important facts. First, in Africa, there is little to no gender gap in voting during elections, but there is a significant gender gap in inter-electoral participation, such as participation in political meetings, or any other relevant political actions that can influence policy and political outcomes. The literature on the determinants of the gender gap in political participation has shown that the well-established determinants thereof in Western countries, such as income, education, and employment, have very little relevance in explaining the gender gap in political participation in Africa. Factors such as intra-household bargaining power and discriminatory social norms play an important role in explaining the gender gap in inter-electoral participation in Africa. Second, while the number of women policy-makers has significantly increased, these women have little influence and control a small fraction of the budget. Third, the use of contraceptives in Africa has increased by approximately 6 percent between 2000 and 2014, but Africa still records among the lowest rates of contraceptive usage and highest unmet need for family planning in the world. Lastly, the literature review has shown that factors such as education, area of residence, religion, socioeconomic status, and funding of reproductive health services are key determinants of contraceptive use. This chapter has several implications for SDG 5 on gender equality and women's empowerment, more specifically targets 5.4 and 5.6.

Keywords: Africa, Gender gap, Political Participation, Reproductive Health, Women's empowerment

JEL Classification: J13, J160, O550