Conditions of Women
Women in Djibouti face substantial social and economic challenges in daily life. Famine, poverty, and regional conflict have created difficulties for both women’s groups and the government in improving the status of women in society.
The government does not provide assistance to children or women taking care of children. Most schools in the nation lack sufficient funding, particularly in secondary education. Only 38% of boys and 30% of girls were enrolled in primary education in 2001. At the secondary school level, girls’ attendance drops to 17% compared to 21% for boys. The government remains committed to increasing the number of female students in the educational system to 50%, but a lack of resources has made this goal elusive.
Many women lack sufficient health care in Djibouti. Few medical services are available to the population and most women did not receive maternity care. Djibouti’s maternal mortality rate (730 per 100,000 live births) has improved in recent years, though it remains high. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has implemented a number of programs in coordination with the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide medical services to urban and rural populations.
Law of Personal Status
Women are guaranteed equality under the law, but extensive social discrimination persists in society. Most women choose to remain out of public life for social reasons. The personal status of women in Djibouti is dictated by customary law, which is based on Islamic law and treats men more favorably than women in the areas of inheritance, divorce, and travel. Some professional women have chosen in recent years to defend their rights using the courts.
Women hold relatively few senior positions in the government and business. Khadija Abeba, the President of the Supreme Court (who acts as the interim president in cases of a vacancy) is the highest-ranking female official in the government. In May 1999, the new President announced the creation of the new Ministry of Women's, Family, and Social Affairs to be headed by the first female minister, Hawa Ahmed Youssouf. Women make up an estimated 32.3 percent of the labor force.
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Djibouti signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in December 1998 with a reservation for conflicts with Islamic law.
Djibouti has one major women's organization, the National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD). Its founder, Aicha Bogoreh, the wife of former president Hassan Gouled Aptidon, was outspoken on women's affairs in Djibouti and internationally until her death in 2001.