Women support democracy less than men in parts of Africa

Democracy stands as a beacon of modern governance, offering principles of equality, representation, and participation. However, its embrace varies across different demographics and regions. In parts of Africa, studies suggest that women exhibit lower levels of support for democracy compared to men. This phenomenon warrants attention, as understanding the gender dynamics within democratic contexts is crucial for fostering inclusive governance and societal progress. This essay delves into the reasons behind women’s comparatively lower support for democracy in certain African regions, exploring historical, cultural, socio-economic, and political factors that contribute to this phenomenon.

Historical Context:

To comprehend the contemporary gender dynamics in democratic support, it’s essential to examine historical contexts. Across Africa, colonial legacies have deeply entrenched patriarchal structures, relegating women to subordinate roles in society and politics. Despite post-colonial strides towards gender equality, persistent socio-cultural norms continue to inhibit women’s agency and political participation. Historical disenfranchisement and marginalization have left enduring scars, shaping women’s perceptions and attitudes towards democratic governance.

Cultural Influences:

Cultural norms play a pivotal role in shaping attitudes towards democracy. In many African societies, traditional gender roles dictate that women prioritize familial duties over civic engagement. Deep-rooted cultural beliefs often portray politics as a male domain, perpetuating the notion that women’s involvement in governance is incongruent with societal norms. Moreover, prevailing cultural practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation reinforce gender disparities, hindering women’s education and socio-political empowerment. Consequently, women may internalize these cultural norms, leading to lower levels of support for democratic principles that challenge existing power structures.

Socio-economic Factors:

Socio-economic disparities exacerbate gender gaps in democratic support. Women in parts of Africa disproportionately experience poverty, limited access to education, and economic marginalization. Economic dependency constrains women’s autonomy and political agency, undermining their ability to engage meaningfully in democratic processes. Furthermore, socio-economic inequalities intersect with other forms of discrimination, such as ethnicity and religion, further marginalizing women from political participation. In such contexts, women may perceive democracy as failing to address their socio-economic concerns, leading to disillusionment and diminished support for democratic governance.

Political Representation and Participation:

The underrepresentation of women in political institutions is a significant barrier to their support for democracy. Despite constitutional guarantees of gender equality, women remain grossly underrepresented in African parliaments and decision-making bodies. Limited political representation diminishes women’s trust in democratic institutions, as they perceive a disconnect between their lived experiences and policy outcomes. Additionally, entrenched political elites perpetuate a male-dominated political culture, marginalizing women from leadership positions and obstructing their political advancement. In the absence of inclusive representation, women may perceive democracy as an exclusionary system that fails to address their needs and aspirations.

Gender-based Violence and Discrimination:

Gender-based violence and discrimination further undermine women’s support for democracy. Across Africa, women face systemic violence, including sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and gender-based killings. Such violence not only violates women’s human rights but also instills fear and insecurity, deterring their participation in public life. Moreover, institutionalized sexism perpetuates discriminatory practices, denying women equal access to justice and redress. In environments where gender-based violence remains pervasive, women may view democracy as incapable of safeguarding their rights and protecting their interests, eroding their support for democratic governance.


The phenomenon of women exhibiting lower levels of support for democracy in parts of Africa underscores the complex interplay of historical, cultural, socio-economic, and political factors. Addressing this issue necessitates holistic strategies aimed at dismantling patriarchal structures, promoting gender equality, and enhancing women’s political participation. Efforts to mainstream gender perspectives in democratic governance, including quotas for women’s representation and targeted initiatives to combat gender-based violence, are imperative for fostering inclusive and responsive democracies. By empowering women as active agents of change, Africa can realize the full potential of democracy as a vehicle for equitable development and social justice.

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