Women in Algeria

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Women in Algeria
Algerians in traditional costumes.jpg
Algerian women dressed in traditional garbs.
General Statistics
Maternal mortality (per 100,000)112 (2017)
Women in parliament25.76% (2020)
Women over 25 with secondary education20.9% (2010)
Women in labour force17,01% (2019)[1]
Gender Inequality Index[2]
Value0.499 (2021)
Rank126th out of 191
Global Gender Gap Index[3]
Value0.602 (2022)
Rank140th out of 146
Portrait of a young Algerian woman, painted by Georges Gasté before 1910.

During the 1962 Algerian War of Independence, Algerian women fought as equals alongside men. They thus achieved a new sense of their own identity and a measure of acceptance from men.[4] However, in the aftermath of the war, women were not able to maintain their emancipation, they were not as engaged in the political sphere as they were during the Algerian war. Even though the constitution of Algeria guaranteed equality between genders, where women can vote and run for political positions. It was harder for that to be implemented in real life.[5]


Algeria on the map

Algeria is a country in North Africa on the Mediterranean coast. After a prolonged rule by France, Algeria obtained independence from France in 1962. The Algerian Civil War (1991-2002) had a negative influence on women's wellbeing. 99% of the population is Arab-Berber, and a similar percentage is Muslim, predominantly Sunni.[6] In Algeria, as in the rest of the MENA Region, women are traditionally regarded as weaker than men and expected to be subordinate to men. Algeria also has a strong culture of family honor, which is connected to women's modesty.[7]

Marriage and personal life[edit]

The legal age for marriage is nineteen for men and women.[8] Many Algerian women are getting married and starting families at much older ages than they did under French Rule. Education, work commitment, and changing social attitudes are the reasons for the change. In 2010, the total fertility rate was 1.76 children born/woman. This is a drop from 2.41 in 2009 and 7.12 in the 1970s just after the Algerian War of Independence from France.

French colonizers opposed veiling because of their secular sovereign constitution and the concept of laïcité. The French secular constitution is based in the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

A real propaganda took place to unveil in order to dominate women in Algeria. Much more so in France, which uses the veil as an endemic struggle of women wanting to emancipate themselves from Islam. However, this issue of the veil, a vile heir of the colonial era. To understand this point, one need to go back to the colonial era, the one during which France colonized Algeria. Women always occupied an important place either for colonizers and male Algerian. First of all, tool to submit women, but also dominated population under their authority; veil being symbol of humility and modesty it is for the invaders, the sign of submission, but amusingly they have been pointing the oppression of women to justify their ‘’mission civilisatrice’’ in the Nord of Africa. As if, Algerian people, Arab people, far from any civilization and smartness, are lost in their ‘’savage’’ behavior, which need an appropriate education delivered by the white, dominant civilization of Europe of the time. Embracing all the racism, but also the alarming signs of oppression, French colonizers de begin a campaign of ‘’dévoilement’’ of unveiling process, unveiling women at the public place to influence them amid a crowd of people applauding and demonstrating their relief and joy. Before going further, it is important and convenient to explain what the veil symbolizes first and foremost, for the colonizers. All invaders during colonization era, had implant the market of sex, meaning that took place a trade of sex, using indigenous people, especially women, shows the economic, and racial domination, which implies the possession of women as being part of properties. It’s also part of a movement called ‘’orientalisme’’ which is the fantasy linked to the way of indigenous life, their culture, their knowledge but also their veil. Men during colonization used to submit ‘’inferiors’ by dominating women, taking their virginity by force, raping them, to weakened men, and the population. Women represents the motherhood, the dignity of the society. There are, sisters, wives, daughters, that coordinates the liked between society. At the medieval times, women were married to pacify society, the more there are marriages that linked families, the more the society is peaceful proliferate blood values. According to this paradigm, women has always been considered as the point either to strengthen or to weakened according to the society one wants to build. To that, colonizers, intend to break the Achilles heel of the society, women. The veil represents the worst nightmare for colonizers, on the one hand, theses women that can’t be submitted, hidden behind the veil named ‘Haik’, only their gaze remains, they see the others, but the other do not see them. Hidden, I just wrote, but they also are ‘protected’ for others. More than a symbol of Islamism that imperialism and western countries seems to understand or to mock, the veil is a traditional way of being. Far from all accessibilities, it frustrated a lots, which allows more and more sexual fantasy toward Algerian women. At that time, several portrait, painting and books refers to this very same fantasy, portraying Algerian women without the veil, bare chest as the famous French painters Delacroix, or Ingres, Gerome, and photographers Rudolf Lehnert.

Eugène Daumas a French writers and politicians and his campaign of ‘retirer voile’ ‘take of the veil’. The first of November 1954 marked the beginning of the war of independence of Algeria, what does strike the most French army, is the active presence of women amidst ALN (armée de liberation national/ Army of liberalization of the nation), especially in the countryside. In the Wikipedia article, nothing is mention about the role, and the unveiling campaign during the colonization, which pushes me to do so. I tend to modify, and add information about such prosecutions that sounds more marginal than ever in our time of gender equality. We tend to see the third world as far from this equality that western are showing off, as if it was the case there. During this time, in that period around 1956 the French administrations order the 5th bureau as it is called to lead a psychologist war according to which women would be the resilient point. Both Lucienne Sala and Suzanne Massu, wives of both generals supported by theirs husbands to create the ‘’solidarité féminine Groupe’’; to ‘’liberate’’’ Algerian women from Algerian oppression, which includes of courses the veil. Took place; the sessions of ‘unveilment’ the 17th may of 1958. Furthermore, the case of Monique Ameziane a ‘’évolué’’ means that she was an Algerian woman that grow up in a French manière, according to French education, and she went to the French school, and she did not wear the veil,. Nothing alarming, but then came, his brother being member of the FLN and hostage of the French army. She finished by wearing it under the pressure in exchange of her brother’s liberation. She was forced to deliver a speech against the veil by taking it off in front af a crowdy bunch of people. With this civilization mission, French at the end of the war, tried to reform the country; by giving more rights in 1959 with the marriage reform; repudiation, consent, and age limitation for getting married that benefited to the rich Algerians from de cityside.

Education and employment[edit]

Prior to the country's Independence, very few native Algerian women could read and write. This was the result of a French-imposed ban on Islamic education for the entire native Algerian population. Which also led to the shut down of many schools, until there were barely enough schools to fit the needs of the country.[9] After independence in 1990 "93% of boys and 83% of girls between 6 and 15 attended school girls constituted 49% of all pupils entered for the baccalaureate examination, and female students constituted 40% of all university".[10] According to UN Women, female literacy rate has reached 81.4 % while male literacy rate is 75.3%.[11]

Post-Independence, North African and Algerian women enjoy many more human rights than their counterparts in neighboring and other African countries. Algerian women can inherit property, obtain a divorce, retain custody of their children, gain an education and work in many sectors of society.[5] Women make up 70 percent of Algeria's lawyers and 60 percent of its judges.[5] They also dominate the fields of medicine, healthcare and science.[5] Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men.[5] As of 2007, sixty-five percent of university students are women, with more than 80% joining the workforce after graduation.[5] They are encouraged by family members to become educated and contribute to Algerian society. Algerian women are among the first in North Africa to become taxi and bus drivers.[5] Their numbers are also increasing in the police force and security positions.[12] Also, according to a UNESCO report published in February 2021, entitled the Race against Time for Smarter Development, Algeria has a female engineer graduate proportion of 48.5%. This shows how Algerian women did not limit themselves to only traditional jobs that did not demand professionalism and expertise.[13]

Role of women in the Algerian War[edit]

Photograph of two Algerian women from Bou Saâda, c. 1906.

Women fulfilled a number of different functions during the Algerian War. The majority of Muslim women who became active participants did so on the side of the National Liberation Front (FLN). The French included some women in their war effort, but they were not as fully integrated, nor were they charged with the same breadth of tasks as their Algerian sisters. The total number of women involved in the conflict, as determined by post-war veteran registration, is numbered at 11,000, but it is possible that this number was significantly higher due to underreporting.[14]

There exists a distinction between two different types of women who became involved, urban and rural. Urban women, who constituted about twenty percent of the overall force, had received some kind of education and usually chose to enter on the side of the FLN of their own accord.[15] Largely illiterate rural women, on the other hand, the remaining eighty percent, due to their geographic location in respect to the operations of FLN often became involved in the conflict as a result of proximity paired with force.[15]

Women operated in a number of different areas during the course of the rebellion. "Women participated actively as combatants, spies, fundraisers, as well as nurses, launderers, and cooks",[16] "women assisted the male fighting forces in areas like transportation, communication and administration",[17] the range of involvement by a woman could include both combatant and non-combatant roles. While the majority of the tasks that women undertook centered on the realm of the non-combatant, those that surrounded the limited number that took part in acts of violence were more frequently noticed. The reality was that "rural women in maquis [rural areas] support networks"[18] contained the overwhelming majority of those who participated. This is not to marginalize those women who did engage in acts of violence but simply to illustrate that they constituted in the minority.


Prior to the war of independence, women were in general excluded from the political life. Even though Algerian women had a big role in the war of independence, in the immediate postwar period after 1962 women’s roles as combatants and fighters were removed from the historical narrative by a “patriarchal nationalist movement”.[19] So, gender roles changed only during the war for independence, after that women were asked to return back to the original tasks of housewives. During the first National Assembly, there were only 10 women out of the 194 members that were present. These women had all taken part in the war for independence. In the second meeting of the National Assembly, 2 out of 138 members were women.[20]

When Ben Bella became president in 1963 he tried to include women in the Algerian socialist society and tried to encourage men to let women start working and be a part of the process of national construction. Under the rule of Ben Bella it was not mandatory for women to wear a veil or a hayk. However, with the overthrow of Ben Bella and the rule of Boumediene in 1965 he started transforming the country to return to its “Arab Islamic roots”[21]

In the 1960s and 1970s Algerian society has determined every aspect in women’s public and private life. However, for many Algerian feminists, the problems they faced were not supposed to be confined into only gender issues. The problems Algerian women faced should be seen through a wider lens, in the context of economic development and education. As Zohra Drif said “‘The liberation of men and women comes down to the question of education”.[22] It was only in September 1981 with the family code when the Algerian women who participated in the war for independence decided to step into politics again and protest this project publicly. As this code undermined the rights of women. The family code which became a law in 1984 portrays sexism very clearly. With article 39 making it a “legal duty for Algerian women to obey their husbands. Article 11 prevents women from arranging their own marriage contracts unless represented by a matrimonial guardian”. [23]

In October 1988 riots broke out in Algiers and then spread to other cities. With these riots the one party system came to an end and a new constitution in 1989 introducing a multi-party system and allowing the formation of associations and political parties. Over two thousand three hundred associations were founded, thirty of which were feminist associations. Some of the well known feminist associations during that time were “equal rights for men and women”, “the triumph of women's rights”, “the defense and promotion of women”, and “the emancipation of women”. [24]

Today, women are represented, although still not proportionally to men, in both parliament and in ministerial positions. In 2012, Algerian women occupied 31 percent of parliamentary seats, placing the country 26th worldwide and 1st in the Arab world.[25] In 2012 political reforms were established, with the support of the United Nations Development Program, to provide a legal framework that granted women 30 percent representation in elected assemblies.[25] On the local level, the rate was only 18 percent, due to the fact that it was difficult to find women willing to appear on ballots in the communes.[25] Currently, Algeria is facing a major setback in the representation of women in parliament. While women held 145 seats in the 2012 parliament, and 120 seats in the 2017 parliament, the number of seats in 2021 fell to “34 seats, comprising only 8 percent of the total 407 seats”. [26]

Following President Bouteflika's re-election in 2014, seven women were appointed as ministers in his cabinet. This adds up to 20 percent of all the ministerial positions. The women occupying the seven new ministerial posts are: Minister of Education Nouria Benghebrit; Minister of Land-Use Planning and Environment Dalila Boudjemaa; Minister of Culture Nadia Labidi; Minister of Family and Women Mounia Meslem; Minister of Post, Information Technology and Communication Zahra Dardouri; Minister of Tourism Nouria Yamina Zerhouni and Delegate Minister of Handicrafts Aish Tabagho.[27] There has until this day not been a female head of state. Louisa Hanoune became the first women in both Algeria and the Arab world to run for office in 2004.[28]

Economic participation[edit]

When it comes to owning land, women are at a major disadvantage. Their access to owning land is limited by the traditional laws of Algeria. Even though Algerian women by law have the right to access bank loans and are free to negotiate financial or business contracts, these actions are usually restricted by their husbands.[29] There is still a gap between men and women when it comes to their percentage in the Algerian workforce. In 2019, women in the Algerian workforce represented 16.6 % versus men who accounted for 66.73 %.[30] Also, in the year 2023, the female and male unemployment rates in Algeria corresponded to approximately 20.4 and 9.4 percent.[31] The proportion of women in all careers (sciences, technology, medicine, literature) is 45 %, while it is 50 % in the exact sciences, which include physics, chemistry, and mathematics.[32]

Family life for women[edit]

When it comes to legal protections for women in Algeria, the current protections in place are general/vague and insufficient. The Family Code of 1984 is based on conservative religious principles. While the law was modified by Ordinance No. 05-02 of 27 February 2005, it still maintains many discriminatory provisions.[33] The 1984 code had a growing tendency towards Islamic fundamentalism. Which in turn threatens women’s rights and privileges in Algeria. This new family code had restrictions for divorce for women, it required male guardians for women in marriage, and it permitted polygamy. Under this law, it was a legal duty for women to obey their husbands in everything, they did not have the right to apply for a divorce unless they choose to give up their alimony. Algerian women cannot marry foreigners, and they cannot give their names, nationalities, or religion to their children.[34]

Notable figures[edit]

  • Kahina - 7th century female Berber religious and military leader, who led indigenous resistance to Arab expansion in Northwest Africa.
  • Djamila Bouhired and Djamila Boupacha - Algerian revolutionaries and nationalists who opposed French colonial rule of Algeria in the 1960s.
  • Assia Djebar - Novelist, translator and filmmaker. Most of her works deal with obstacles faced by women, and she is noted for her feminist stance.
  • Zohra Drif - Retired lawyer and the vice-president of the Council of the Nation, the upper house of the Algerian Parliament.
  • Hassiba Ben Bouali - A leader in the Algerian independence war, got killed by French troops in her hideout in 1957.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/economies/#economy=DZA
  2. ^ "Human Development Report 2021/2022" (PDF). HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORTS. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Global Gender Gap Report 2022" (PDF). World Economic Forum. Retrieved 6 March 2023.
  4. ^ Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. (1993). "Men and women". Algeria: a country study. Washington, D.C.: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 102–104. OCLC 44230753. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.{{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Slackman, Michael (26 May 2007). "Algeria's quiet revolution: Gains by women". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Algeria". The World Factbook. The World Factbook.
  7. ^ Metz, Helen Chapen (1993). Men and Women.
  8. ^ "What is the minimum legal framework around marriage?". Girls not Brides. Girls not brides.
  9. ^ Heggoy, Alf Andrew (1973). "Education in French Algeria: An Essay on Cultural Conflict". Comparative Education Review. 17 (2): 180–197. doi:10.1086/445693. JSTOR 1186812. S2CID 144718127.
  10. ^ Danièle Djamila, Amrane-Minne (1999). "Women and Politics in Algeria from The War of Independence to Our Day". 30: 62–77. doi:10.2979/RAL.1999.30.3.62. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Algeria". UN Women. UN Women.
  12. ^ Lowe, Christian (6 August 2009). "Algeria's women police defy danger and stereotypes"". Reuters. Reuters.
  13. ^ "Algeria has the highest rate of women engineers in the world". Algerian Women in Science. Algerian Women in Science.
  14. ^ De Groot, Gerard, Peniston-Bird, Corinna. A Soldier and a Woman: Sexual integration in the Military. New York: Longman, 2000, p. 247.
  15. ^ a b Lazreg, Marnia. The Eloquence of Silence. London: Routledge, 1994, p. 120.
  16. ^ Turshen, Meredith (2002). "Algerian Women in the Liberation Struggle and the Civil War: From Active Participants to Passive Victims?". Social Research. 69 (3): 889–911. doi:10.1353/sor.2002.0047. JSTOR 40971577.
  17. ^ De Groot, Gerard, Peniston-Bird, Corinna. A Soldier and a Woman: Sexual integration in the Military. New York: Longman, 2000, p. 223.
  18. ^ Vince, Natalya (13 September 2010). "Transgressing Boundaries: Gender, Race, Religion, and "Francaises Musulmanes" during the Algerian War of Independence". French Historical Studies. 33 (3): 445–474. doi:10.1215/00161071-2010-005.
  19. ^ Vince, Natalya (2015). Our fighting sisters. Manchester University Press. p. 296.
  20. ^ Amrane-Minne, Danièle Djamila (1999). "Women and Politics in Algeria from the War of Independence to Our Day". Research in African Literatures 30. 30: 62–77.
  21. ^ Vince, Natalya (2015). Our fighting sisters: Nation, memory and gender in Algeria, 1954–2012. Manchester University Press. p. 296.
  22. ^ Vince, Natalya (2015). Our fighting sisters: Nation, memory and gender in Algeria, 1954–2012. Manchester University Press. p. 296.
  24. ^ Amrane-Minne, Danièle Djamila (1999). "Women and Politics in Algeria from the War of Independence to Our Day". Research in African Literatures 30. 30: 62–77.
  25. ^ a b c United Nations Development Program. "A future in politics for women in Algeria". UNDP. UNDP. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  26. ^ Marwane, Ahmed. "Women and Politics in Algeria: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back". The Washington Institute. The Washington Institute.
  27. ^ Trade Bridge Consultants. "President Bouteflika appoints 34 member Cabinet". Trade Bridge Consultants. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  28. ^ Naylor, Phillip C. (2015). Historical Dictionary of Algeria (Fourth ed.). London: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 228. ISBN 9780810879195.
  29. ^ "Gender Equity & Women's Issues – Algeria". acelebrationofwomen.org. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  30. ^ Saleh, Mariam. "Labor force participation rate in Algeria from 2010 to 2021, by gender". Statista. Statista.
  31. ^ "Unemployment rate in Algeria 2010-2024, by gender". Statista. Statista Research Department.
  32. ^ Naziha, Kesri (1999). "Algerian Women in the Exact Sciences". AIP Conference Proceedings 1119. 1119: 73. doi:10.1063/1.3137913.
  33. ^ "The Family Code of 1984 modified by Ordinance No. 05-02 of 27 February 2005". Equality Now. Archived from the original on 2016-07-08.
  34. ^ Smail Salhi, Zahia (2003). "Algerian Women, Citizenship, and the 'Family Code'". Gender and Development. 11: 27–35.

External links[edit]