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Rural women left guessing as urban counterparts soar


Turkan women fetch water for domestic use. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Much work has been done and billions of shillings spent on ensuring the social and economic parity between women and men over the years.

However, a new survey shows that while the welfare of the urban woman has improved over the decades, more work needs to be done to improve the lot of the rural dweller.

Latest Pan-African survey company Afrobarometer data shows that a whopping 65 percent of women live upcountry.

"Only 36 percent residence in urban areas," the Afrobarometer report, which was conducted in 34-African states, shows.

This disparity is reflected in the education sector where 32 percent of rural women lack formal education in comparison to their urban counterparts at 13 percent.

"For example, only 39 percent of Kenyan rural women possess secondary or post-secondary education against 64 percent in cities," the report adds.

With little education, 51 percent of rural women do not have paid employment in contrast to urban women (38 percent).

"Urban women are slightly more likely at 30 percent than rural women (27 percent) to seek employment," it adds.

According to the 2020 Gender Gap Index report, only 24.8 percent of female serve as legislators, senior officials and managers in the country.

In the Kenyan Parliament, for instance, the report shows that women represent only 21.4 percent of the Legislature. In ministerial positions, the number is only marginally higher at 25 percent with no head of state being female as yet.

In the business front, only 13.2 percent of firms have a majority female ownership and only 18.1 percent of the firms in Kenya have women in top management. There is a higher number of women employed part time than men with this being 44.25 percent and 28.9 percent of the labour force respectively.

Despite disparities that exist in labour-market and employment, rural (83 percent) and urban (84 percent) women are of the view that they too have the same opportunities as men to earn an income.

Whereas 27 percent of Urban women head their households, only 22 percent do the same in the countryside.

"Half (51 percent) of rural women live in a household where their spouses are primarily responsible for decision making, compared to 40 percent of urban women," the Afrobarometer report shows.

"Urban women are slightly more likely than rural women to have a relative–male or female–as head of the household."

While 58 percent and 48 percent of urban men and women access the internet using mobile phones respectively, only 32 percent and 24 percent of rural men and women enjoy the same.

Meanwhile, fewer than one in five rural women (18 percent) say they own a bank account, which is less than half the proportion of urban women with an account (41 percent).

"In addition, rural women (12 percent) are less likely than urban women (20 percent) to live in a household where someone else has a bank account,” it shows.

The Afrobarometer report adds that rural women are also less likely to make spending decisions in their households in contrast to their urban counterparts.

"While 42 percent of urban women say they make decisions about household spending themselves, only 31 percent of rural women say the same,” it adds.

On land inheritance, a majority of African women in both rural and urban settings say they have the same opportunities as men to own and inherit land.

This is especially the case for urban women (73 percent) and rural women (68 percent).

“This is reflected by one-fourth (27 percent) of rural women and one-fifth (22 percent) of urban women who say women do not have equal opportunities for land ownership.”

For decades, skewed customary practices have denied women rights to inherit properties from their parents. Instead, this favoured men as they were regarded as heirs.

The passage of the 2010 Constitution, however, granted women equal rights to inherit land from their parents without any form of discrimination.

African peers

Across the continent, more women in e-Swatini (83 percent), Niger (83 percent), Malawi (81 percent), Madagascar (78 percent) and Mali (78 percent) live in rural areas.

“Only 17 percent of e-Swatini women live in urban areas, 17 percent Niger, 19 percent Malawi and 22 percent Madagascar,” it shows

Gabon (21 percent), Botswana (31 percent), South Africa (31 percent), Tunisia (32 percent) and São Tomé and Príncipe (32 percent) have the least number of women staying in villages.

“On the other hand, 79 percent of women in Gabon live in urban centres, Botswana (70 percent) and South Africa (70 percent),” it adds.

The gap between women in both rural and urban areas with secondary and post-secondary education in South Africa is slim at 76 against 87 percent respectively. It is followed by Gabon (67 against 90 percent) and Sudan (65 against 83 percent).

In the meantime, the disparity is wide in Mali (five to 25 percent), Niger (six to 31 percent) and Guinea (eight to 39 percent).

More women access internet via mobile phones in Mauritius at that 57 followed by South Africa (53 percent), Sudan (53 percent) and Gambia (51 percent).

“On the other hand, only three percent of women in rural Niger have access to the internet on mobile phones, Mali (four percent), Burkina Faso (five percent) and Benin (six percent),” it adds.