Production, reproduction and empowerment: the future of women in Africa

Many women in Africa are congregated in poorly paid and precarious work (ILO, 2016) and have very high rates of school dropout and maternal mortality and child morbidity. This is crucially linked to their role in childbirth and child-care. Women and girls still perform the bulk of unpaid domestic and care work, severely limiting their access to work with fair working conditions. Across a diverse continent, empowering women and achieving decent work is a vital element in developing dynamic economies that include the full political and social citizenship of women, while supporting their care-giving roles.

This lecture focuses on young women (aged 15-24), who are at the cusp of reproduction and production. Drawing on the rich data sets collected by Young Lives in Ethiopia, Professor Jo Boyden, Director of Young Lives, & Professor Sandra Fredman, Director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub, examine transitions of adolescent girls and boys from education to labour markets and how their opportunities are shaped by other intersecting transitions (family formation, marriage and parenthood). On the basis of this evidence, they will consider the role of legal frameworks in obstructing or facilitating women’s access to decent working conditions, the social support for care-giving roles, and ways of interrupting intergenerational transmission of poverty.