Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa

By Dennis D. Cordell; Joel W. Gregory et al. | Go to book overview

5
"The Men Followed the Money and the Women Followed the Men":* Female Migration, 1900-1973

As in so many other areas of inquiry, scholarship has until recently neglected the study of the migration of women in Africa. Even in the case of migration flows dominated by women, such as movements between rural areas within many African countries, female mobility is generally associated uniquely with marriage. It is rarely considered in the broader contexts of labor migration or broader regional, national, or international economies. Literature reviews of migration and the few scholars who have focused on female mobility have argued that including women in standard migration surveys would do much to correct this oversight ( Morokvasic 1984: 899; Findley 1989). Indeed, the National Migration Survey of 1974-1975 did collect the migration histories of women as part of its national sample. This information constitutes one of the survey's most original contributions.

Apart from the National Migration Survey and the 1973 ORSTOM survey, very few studies of burkinabè migration have focused on female migration in Burkina. For the most part, when women are mentioned, they are presented as marginal. Skinner, for example, mentions runaway women, women who are either unmarried young mothers or divorced or separated older women fleeing the social control of the village for urban centers or neighboring countries. In these cases they are said frequently to resort to prostitution to support themselves ( Skinner 1960: 390-91). Not surprisingly, the survey data demonstrate that the patterns of migration of burkinabè women are much more complex and varied.

This chapter examines female migration between 1900 and 1973. The variables are the same as those featured in the analysis of male mobility. The description of migration flows and characteristics illustrate the dis-

____________________
*
Cited in Findley and Williams 1991:1.

-231-

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