The role of women in the West-African family and society

From a young age (around 6 years old) the West-African girl is handed duties and responsibilities and she is trained for the purpose of one day becoming a wife. Her training would start with looking after the younger siblings, bathing them and carrying them around on her back. By the time she reaches the age of 10, she will be an expert at changing them, sweeping, moping and making basic foods like steamed rice on the charcoal or wood. Her education would most likely be limited or non-existent due to the fact that her parents have to prioritize whose education is more important out of many children, which would most probably be the male siblings’. As one day she will be married off to another family, her family would put into perspective the value of that educational investment and the future economic return on it to them.  Male siblings generally will stay within the family compound after marriage thus potentially contributing to family finance. Even when they leave, the males are expected to be the bread winners and care takers of their parents’ household.

Girls from an early age are taught that obedience, respect and unconditional sacrifice are the main pillars of being a good wife and daughter-in-law. Servitude is a virtue and once girls are out of their parents’ household, their blessings are earned from the type of wife they become and it is believed that this acceptance of the way things are will make their future offspring successful in life. Fortunately times are changing. Although at a relatively slow paste, a growing number of females are going into higher education and get training in professional skills. We have seen many females in leading roles in both the private and public sectors, leading a pathway for parents to see the value to equally educate their children regardless of gender.