Women’s Issues in Africa: Finding Information on the Web

by Beth Restrick and David Westley

This guide is intended to provide research tips and highlight various databases and websites on researching women and key women’s issues in  Africa.

Use the Web as part of a comprehensive, integrated research strategy that includes the services and resources of the library and use of bibliographic and other databases.

Please refer to the guides on the right-hand menu for an introduction to researching Africa using Web resources as well as for research on women in Africa and other developing countries.

Some helpful databases:

Other useful databases are listed in

Electronic Resources by Subject: African Studies an annotated guide to electronic resources in the library and beyond.

What you can expect to find using the Web for research on women’s issues in Africa depends on the questions you are asking and how you ask them.

Specific data and facts are usually found more easily in a reference work than in a Web search.


  • What is the population of Dar es Salaam? A Google search yields over 17,000 results. The first one that actually gives you the population turns out to be a student run page from the International School at Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. In this case, turning to Africa South of the Sahara in ASL Reference will give you an authoritative census figure in much less time.
  • Who is the President of Mali? Searching Google again yields 143,000 results. The information is contained in the first item, a news article on the service allAfrica.com, and is confirmed by a CIA WorldFactbook entry found further down the first page. The link for the news article goes to the current allAfrica.com page; to see the article referred to, click on the “cached” choice in the description. (This yields the startling headline “Obasanjo Disrobes Gen. Issa”, but the article’s text does not elucidate the wording chosen by the Standard Times of Freetown, Sierra Leone.) Again, a reference work like Africa South of the Sahara can supply accurate and up-to-date information faster.

Very broad, theoretical questions yield unpredictable results. Looking for books or journal articles is usually better.


  • Attitudes toward women’s education in Africa. This phrase yields 23,200 results. Some of the pages listed are quite interesting, but usually for other topics.

Information on organizations or governments is one of the handiest and most reliable resources on the Web. Many organizations have Web sites.


Finding biographical and other information on individuals and news events is a good use of the Web.


  • Winnie Mandela
  • Kudirat Abiola
  • Rape of schoolgirls in Kenya

As we have seen, using search engines opens up opportunities for serendipity (finding something of value when you are looking for something else). There are ways to make that serendipity a little more predictable.

Africa South of the Sahara: Women is an excellent compilation of Web sites dealing with women’s issues. Each entry is annotated.

A section of the University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center site provides links to pages on women’s issues.

Evaluating Web Sources:

Consult the tutorial Web Resources for the Study of Africa

Citing Web Sources:

Consult the tutorial Web Resources for the Study of Africa

A Sampling of Web Sites Dealing with Women’s Issues

Global and Third World Sites

  • GenderNet The World Bank site on gender issues.
  • International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) ICRW’s mission is to improve the lives of women in poverty, advance women’s equality and human rights, and contribute to the broader economic and social well-being. The Web site contains their publications, research projects, and links to other sites.
  • Women In Development NET Work – WIDNET A list of Web sites pertaining to women arranged in three categories: Statistics, Subjects, Resources. African material is easily found in each category.
  • Women’s Human Rights Net Includes a section on UN human rights organizations in Africa.
  • Empowering Widows in Development contains substantial information on Africa.
  • Women’s Net News articles on women. Some African coverage.
  • Women Watch is a joint UN project to create a core Internet space on global women’s issues. It was created to monitor the results of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. A section on Africa has basic information and links to national and organizational Web sites in individual countries.

African Sites


  • Femnet Femnet’s objectives include: To strengthen the role and contribution of African NGOs concerned with women’s development
  • Africa Action (Position Papers, Reports and Articles) A list of varied publications, including those on women’s rights on the Web site of the Africa Policy Information Center. The site contains other useful information.





  • ABANTU Abantu’s mission is to empower African people, particularly women, to participate at local, national, regional and international levels in making decisions that affect their lives enabling action for change. Includes a list of publications.

SADC Gender Monitor (no longer available), instead see SADC Gender Unit for information.

UN Economic Commission for Africa. The African Centre for Women (ACW)

The Centre services national, regional and subregional structures involved in the advancement of women.

UNIFEM UNIFEM promotes women’s empowerment and gender equality. It works to ensure the participation of women in all levels of development planning and practice, and acts as a catalyst within the UN system, supporting efforts that link the needs and concerns of women to all critical issues on the national, regional and global agendas.


General health issues

  • Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) now “Reproductive Rights” is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting women’s equality worldwide by guaranteeing reproductive rights as human rights. Click here for Africa region.
  • RAINBO is an international not-for-profit organization working on issues within the intersection between health and human rights of women.

Female Genital Mutilation


  • The Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW)-Kenya is a membership-based non-partisan, secular, feminist network of individuals and organizations who are committed to eradicating violence against women
  • Women’s Legal Issues in Africa (No longer accessible ) http://members.aol.com/aacdrsmall/wlppfp1.htm) A Web site created by an alumna of the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC. It is maintained for the convenience of the Legal Advocacy for Women in Africa students who are a part of that program, and is open to other researchers.