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Women in Chad  

Eline Rosenhart and Germaine Remadji Guidimbaye

Chad, a landlocked state in the heart of Africa, encompasses an area of 495,755 square miles (1,284,000 km2) and contains a population of 15 million people, with an estimated 180 different people groups. Women have played an important role in Chad’s history and society. In the precolonial period (16th century–1900), Chadian women played an essential part in the physical labor activities that provided for the livelihood of the community, yet the majority of women held limited decision-making power. In the courts of precolonial kingdoms, however, certain women of high rank held important political functions. During the period of French colonial rule (1900–1960), no significant effort was made to promote the status of women. Moreover, certain colonial policies geared toward generating revenue inflicted disproportionally heavy burdens on Chadian women. Education for women in colonial schools was an exception rather than a rule. Nevertheless, a small number of women were able to take advantage of the opportunities they did receive to carve out a space for themselves and become leaders in independent Chad (1960– ). Those belonging to the dominant political party mostly aimed their attention at improving women’s rights, while others in the opposition focused on the larger battles against colonialism, authoritarianism, nepotism, and the blatant disregard for human rights in Chad. In early 21st-century Chad, women are still underrepresented in all spheres of public life. Sexual and gender-based violence against women has become commonplace, contributing to the mounting gender inequality that continues to pervade and shape Chad.