In West Africa, large gender disparities persist. Women and girls are disadvantaged in many areas and don’t enjoy the same opportunities as their male counterparts. This is true for almost all public sectors, ranging from unequal access to basic social services, unequal property rights and persistent gender gaps in the labour market and in the public sphere. Since the mid-2000s, however, almost every West African country and regional organisation has adopted a gender policy or strategy and is increasingly mainstreaming gender issues in different policy sectors. In 2017-18 the SWAC Secretariat seeks to inform these policies and strategies by analysing how women’s trade networks function and through a regional database on discrimination against women.

Analysing how women’s trade networks function

Women traders are important actors in border markets and play a significant role in forging ties beyond borders. Their networks vary in size from local to regional and international. But, are women traders’ networks different from other traders’ networks in any way? How do they function and adapt to economic, security and climate risks? 

The programme aims to understand the role of women in border markets and regional integration. The functional and institutional dynamics of women’s networks will be cross-analysed to identify policy frameworks that are better suited to structural constraints and opportunities for women’s economic activities. The analysis of these networks will also help to assess their functioning, specificities and resilience strategies for adapting to risks, more specifically with regards to women. This reflection builds on the Secretariat’s work on social network analysis (SNA) carried out in 2015-16, and will take place at the local and regional levels. 


Statistics and analyses on discrimination against women

‌The OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) is a cross-country measure of discrimination against women in social institutions across 160 countries. This index is based on a large number of variables, such as women’s legal rights (marriage, divorce, and inheritance), early marriage practices, violence against women, and access by women to land or financial services. The Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat supports and contributes to a regional SIGI report in 2018 on West Africa, including statistical data and comparative analyses. The report and update of the database provides a strong evidence base to more effectively consider issues of social and economic discrimination against women in strategies and policies.