“The situation of women remains invisible”

This text is part of the special Francophonie booklet

How has equality between women and men evolved in the Francophonie in recent decades? This question is regularly asked of Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau and Marie Langevin, co-directors of the Francophone Observatory for Inclusive Gender Development (OFDIG), created last year. “We don’t know,” they reply each time. Data on the subject is sorely lacking, as revealed in recent research.

There are data on the socio-economic development of States, which are mainly provided by the UN or the World Bank, or even by national statistical institutes. But these structures do not specifically address the reality of women, underline the researchers from the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) in an interview.

“A lot of studies will focus on households rather than individuals, the data will not be disaggregated by sex. Others will only question the male head of the family, ”explains Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau.

In surveys, women are also often mixed up, amalgamated with young people, the elderly, the unemployed, migrants… In short, with marginalized groups.

“It was a great surprise for us to see that half of humanity was confused with marginality. This is completely crazy. We said to ourselves “but how can we manage to progress”? recalls Marie Langevin, who teaches in the Department of Strategy, Social and Environmental Responsibility at UQAM.

“We know that women are poorer, that they have less access to education, that they are more victims of violence, we know that the pandemic has affected women more, but the large organizations that produce data do not reveal these specificities. The situation of women remains invisible,” adds Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau, who is a professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication.

To have a portrait of the condition of women in the Francophonie, it is also necessary to have statistics concerning only the speakers of the language of Molière. Isolating them from general studies remains a challenge, as does the fact that these studies are often published in English.

When data are available, they are also difficult to compare. Pay gaps are sometimes calculated on the basis of the median salary or on the basis of the annual salary.

With doctoral student Zora Ait El Machkouri, Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau and Marie Langevin combed through 800 Google search results on gender equality and scanned 19 institutional reports to establish an inventory of accessible information and reveal gaps.

“We are raising small flags, in a way, we are making a plea for there to be organizations, grants, programs that are interested in this issue,” notes Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau.

Call to action

One of OFDIG’s objectives is to make up for the lack of data on the status of women in the Francophonie and to become a benchmark in this area. The young Uqamian organization, founded on March 8, 2022 in partnership with the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), employs, in addition to an Ontario researcher, three African researchers working in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco. The latter have already published studies on female entrepreneurship or on the presence of women in higher education in their respective countries.

OFDIG also wants to list good practices in inclusive development in order to inspire effective future actions, such as the initiative of an Ivorian woman working on the creation of a label that business people promoting equality could obtain. The observatory wants to propose solutions and network feminists from university, community, activist and citizen backgrounds.

In the longer term, OFDIG would like to recruit scientists from all over the world to document the reality of all Francophones. “There are regional disparities. There is little data on Asia, on Latin America,” says Caterine Bourassa-Dansereau.

This special content was produced by the Special Publications team of the Duty, relating to marketing. The drafting of Duty did not take part.

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