Women's Rights in ChadFatime Ali Abakar is a 22-year-old living in Chad. She is one of many young women and girls learning about gender equality from the United Nations (U.N.). Through programs similar to the one that supports Fatime Ali Abakar, the U.N. Population Fund (UNEFPA) seeks to end gender-based violence by 2030. This includes child marriage, female genital mutilation and maternal deaths, all of which are prevalent in Chad. The specter of child marriage is an open discussion in Fatime’s classes. As a result, the taboo is challenged and young girls are equipped with ‘evidence-based, girl-centered investments’ that deliver skills, information and services toward eliminating the issue. UNFPA-UNICEF programs have, between 2016 and 2019, helped 22,000 schools deliver targeted education, assisted 11 countries with rolling out ‘national action plans’ and reached 4.2 million individuals with ‘community dialogue.’

Outcomes for Women and Girls in Chad

Chad has the highest rates of child marriage in the world. 67% of girls in Chad were married before age 18 and 30% before age 15. As of 2013, the adolescent birth rate was 179.4 per 1,000 girls aged 15 years to 19 years. In 2018, 16.2% of women and girls (15 years to 49 years) were subject to physical and/or sexual violence and 34.1% of girls and women in the same age groups had undergone female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation or FGM is a widespread practice in Chad. Unfortunately, it is a practice that violates human rights, and is one that is carried out on infant and under-15-year-old girls. A nonprofit organization, 28 TOO MANY, works with communities in Chad with the highest number of cases. On the bright side, there has been some progress in alleviating the issue, with The Reproductive Health Law awaiting support from the office of the President. Efforts to reduce poverty have also yielded positive results. In addition, the in-work poverty rate dropped from 47 % in 2011 to 42 % in 2018. As of 2021, this figure stood at 41%. The figure continues to remain relatively high because women do not have access to dignified work. They engage in activities like procuring water, cooking meals and looking after husbands and children. Women rarely inherit properties, and they mostly depend on men for security and prosperity.

Ongoing Work

Various organizations work to help women and girls in their pursuit of security. CARE International, for example, seeks to provide economic justice to women through access to financial services. CARE International defines economic justice as the ‘right to economic resources’.

These resources target women entrepreneurs, who account for 31% to 38% of small to medium size enterprises in the global south. As a result of this program, 270,000 women in 11 countries have seen their average business earnings increase by 91%. The management of run-off water and the construction of weirs in Chad’s Sahel region is among ongoing efforts. The Sahel is a vast, semi-arid region in Africa. In times of low rainfall, the area becomes highly susceptible to famine. A weir is crucial in these circumstances, as it ensures effective water run-off and consistent water availability. Between 2012 and 2018, the project created 64 weirs. As a result, feed available for livestock has increased ‘significantly’ and grass now grows on arable land for ‘longer periods’. Millet yields have doubled and vegetable yields have risen 23%.

Looking Ahead

Through programs supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, efforts are underway to address gender-based violence and improve outcomes for women and girls in Chad. These initiatives aim to tackle issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation and maternal deaths, providing girls with skills, information and services to challenge societal taboos and promote gender equality. Additionally, organizations like 28 TOO MANY and CARE International are working to combat practices like female genital mutilation and provide economic justice to women through access to financial services, contributing to positive changes in Chad.

– James Durbin
Photo: Flickr