Hi Cece. what are women’s roles like? How old do people marry, and how many children?
From what I have observed in Senegal so far, women’s roles do not differ much from how women act or are treated in other European or American societies. Unlike when I visited Peru one summer, which is a very misogynistic society where women belong to their husband and gentleman politeness is few and far between, women are very independent and hold a lot of power, control, and opinion. The wife is the head of the household when it comes to how the house is being run-cooking, cleaning, school, children behavior- and if we study abroad students have any questions about laundry or rules, we are mainly directed to ask our Moms. There isn’t really a great division of labor and who does what work except one of my friends pointed out that the numerous tables set up on the sides of roads selling peanuts, dates, and other small goodies are mostly run by women where as most Nescafe and Café Touba stalls or carts are being served by men. I asked one of my Senegalese friends however he said that this observation is not the case and that many different genders do the same type of work.
Marriage ceremonies are different for each type of religion. My friends who have gone to weddings here (both Muslim and Christian) within this first month with their families say the ceremonies and the parties afterward are the same as weddings in the United States-even some of the clothing such as the “token” white wedding dress, is the same.
Though this is a country made up of many Muslim people, women are not expected, nor do they, wear head scarves. I have only seen one person in a market place where a hijab but other than that, women love to get their hair done and show it off. However, with clothing, women do mostly wear skirts, dresses, and pants that fall at, or below the knee, at least. You are more likely to turn heads with a too short skirt then a v-neck shirt cut all the way down to your navel exposing your cleavage.
Also concerning Muslim traditions, women are not allowed to go into Mosque and pray-only men are allowed within the walls. Polygamy is also present here although not very much so. The father of my Muslim Senegalese friend, Moustapha, has 3 different wives currently because he is very well-off and can provide for them each fairly and adequately. They each have their own luxurious house throughout Dakar and each wife has many children. However, when I asked Moustapha if he himself would want more than one wife in the future he said, very adamantly, no. He said that although his father is mostly retired, he can never relax because he is constantly moving and running around-spending 2 days/nights at one house, 2 the next, etc.
Unlike Catholicism, it is easier to get a divorce in the Islamic religion-except only the husband can choose to do so. The wife can not ask for a divorce. Although, if a Muslim man wants to marry a woman that is not Muslim, she does not have to convert though if a Muslim woman wants to marry a man who is of a different faith, he must convert.
Hope these adequately answered your questions! Pertaining to education, I am taking a class right now on “Education and Development in Senegal” so I will keep you posted with what I am learning.