Country Profile


Crossroads' Work in Senegal

In Senegal, Crossroads' partnerships with local organizations focus on improving the status of women in society. While the women's movement in Senegal has made significant progress over the past two decades, much work remains to be done as socio-cultural norms continue to undermine the status of women in spite of a legal framework erected to counteract them. Violence against women is so widespread that it has gone from being a question of individual safety to a significant development issue, preventing women from enjoying basic human rights or playing an active role in social development.

I am engaged in this work so that women emerge who are confident and dedicated to working for all Senegalese women.

- Yacine Diagne (AFEME)


Full Name: Republic of Senegal

Population: 13.3 million (UN, 2013)

Capital: Dakar

Area: 196,722 sq km (75,955 sq miles)

Major languages: French (official), Wolof

Major religions: Islam

Life Expectancy: 57.5 years (UN)

Monetary Unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes

Main Exports: Fish, peanuts, petroleum products, phosphates, cotton

GNI per capita: US $1,141 (World Bank, 2013)


Independent since 1960, the Republic of Senegal is held up as one of Africa's most stable democracies. It has both an established multi-party system and a tradition of civilian rule. The current president, in power since 2012, is Macky Sall, leader of the Alliance for the Republic. 

While the Senegalese constitution guarantees press freedom, and private media are often critical of the government, it is unlawful to “discredit the state”, and disseminate "false news”. Coverage of the long-running separatist conflict in the Casamance region of the country has led, in some instances, to media clampdowns by the government.

The Constitution of Senegal states that "men and women shall be equal in law" and prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, class, or language. However, discrimination against women continues, especially in rural areas where 70 per cent of the population lives. The Government frequently does not enforce anti-discrimination laws.

In May 2009, the Ministry of Family, Food Security, Women's Entrepreneurship, Microfinance and Early Childhood was recognized as a fully-fledged and autonomous entity of the Senegalese government. This change, combined with an increase in the number of qualified women elected on the 2009 municipal elections, shows that there is growing potential to act on a women's rights agenda.


Senegal's economy is dependent on the export of seafood and phosphate, as well as on tourism. The combined effects of structural adjustment and devaluation have had harsh societal and economic repercussions. During the 1990s Senegal's currency was devalued by 50 per cent and many government price controls and subsidies were dismantled.

Senegal is a party to the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief program, which requires it to meet a range of IMF and World Bank economic management and performance targets.


Although Senegal's level of foreign investment has increased and inflation has stabilized relative to 1990 levels, unemployment is high and poverty is widespread.

Nearly 70 per cent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day. According to the last national survey of households, the number of poor families practically doubled in two years.

On the 2009 UN Human Development Indicator, Senegal ranks of 166 out of 182 countries.

Life expectancy at birth is 54 for men and 57 for women.

The way to fight the feminization of poverty and improve the living conditions of women is to promote female entrepreneurship.

- Yacine Diagne (AFEME)

Women’s Rights

Women are in general confined to traditional roles. They are married at a young age, half of them live in polygamous unions. Although the Government passed legislation banning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in 1999, up to 20% of girls are still victims of the practice.

Only 23 per cent of females over 15 years of age are literate, while the rate for males over age 15 is 43 percent. The situation is especially severe among women in rural and poor urban areas. The majority of women in Senegal have few educational opportunities.


Crossroads International gratefully acknowledges the support of: