Gender Attitudes in Africa: Liberal Egalitarianism in 34 Countries

Maria Charles , University of California, Santa Barbara

This study provides a first descriptive mapping of support for women’s equal rights in 34 African countries and assesses diverse theoretical explanations for variability in this support. Contrary to stereotypes of a homogeneously tradition-bound continent, African citizens report a high level of agreement with women’s equal rights that is more easily understood with reference to global processes of ideological diffusion than to country-level differences in economic modernization or women’s public-sphere roles. Multivariate analyses suggest, however, that any global diffusion is occurring through mechanisms not typically considered by world-society scholars. Although gender liberalism in Africa is largely unrelated to countries’ formal ties to the world system, it increases with individuals’ exposure to extra-local culture, including through Internet and mobile phone usage, news access and urban residency. Global forces for liberalism appear to be conditioned, moreover, by more local religious cultures and gender structures.

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 Presented in Session 155. Gender and Inequality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries