Why Does Women's S Empowerment in One Generation Not Lead to Later Marriage and Childbearing in the Next?: Qualitative Findings from Bangladesh1

By Schuler, Sidney Ruth; Rottach, Elisabeth | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, March 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Why Does Women's S Empowerment in One Generation Not Lead to Later Marriage and Childbearing in the Next?: Qualitative Findings from Bangladesh1


Schuler, Sidney Ruth, Rottach, Elisabeth, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


INTRODUCTION

Early marriage and childbearing arcng girls is associated with an array of negative social and health ccnseoifâxes far young ircthers and their infants and cairucibutes to rapid rxrulaticn gcswtìx I^ngladesh, cur research site, has the seccnd highest percentage of adolescent tackles in the world (Niger has the hi^est) ; acrcardirg to 2007 national survey cata, in the 25-29 age cchort, tinnee-fcurths of I^rr^iacfeshi waren were irerried by ace 18 and nearly half had given birth by that ace (NOECRT et al. , 2009) . Ferale ace at first irarriaçe gradually increased between 1989 and 2000, but since thai has rot iirprroved significantly (NIPORT et al., 2?T) (Tadel) .

Ccrrparing waren ages 40-45 with those 20 years younger , iredian age at first birth arcng Banglaceshi waren rose fcy cnly slightly more than cne year (Table 2) . Ccrrparing wcmen aces 40-45 with these 20 years yxrger , rredian age at first birth among Earr^adeshi waren rose by cnly slightly rrrare than cne year (Table 2) .

Here we use 18, the legal minimum age at marriage for females in Bangladesh, as a reference point, defining marriages and pregnancies prior to that age as "early ." W e also, hcwever , rete dif ferences within the category cf nearly," because marriages at the acp cf 13-14 (still cuite comen) clearly have different inplicaticns for nest girls than rarriages at the ace of 17. A recBit review cf literature carludes that pdicy makers should be nest coxernsd about narriages and pregnancies under the ace of 15 because transiticns to adulthood at these ages are x\drtrally always" problematic, and it is a critical period for developing adolescents' perceptions of genfer roles and sexual attitudes (Dixcn-Mjeller , 2C05) .

lhe persistence of early narriage and childbearirg in E&rglacesri is surprising in licjx. of the array cf large scale irterventdens that have keen underway for close to two decades, including microcredit, female education, and aomunity-tased health and family pLannirg services, all of which are thought to contribute to worm' s empowerment . Microcredit programs expanded rapidly in rural areas of the country thrcugixut the late 1980s and early 1990s, ard many in the development field saw them as catalysts for empowerment among the women who participated in them. Euring this same tine period, considerable progress was made in providing prirrary health care services to women and children, including oral rehydration, child iimuiizaticn, and family planning. E^ngladesh. demonstrated a rapid decline in total fertility rates between the late 197Qs and the early 199Qs, from an average of ever six children to just over three children per family (NEHKT et al. , 2001) . E£rglaoesh is also notarié fer the dramatic !increases in access to edxaticn fix girls that has^ taken piace (Sdxüer , 2007; W ite et al. , 2005) . By 2001, the gross priirary schodL aircllrnent rate reached 98%, with parity between boys and girls (World E&nk, 2003) . In 1993, the percentage of girls completing each grade was less than that of brys; by 2004 girls exceeded boys at every gracte level through the end of seccrrhry school (Schüler , 2007) .

QLBlitative ckta collected ky cne cf the authors between 2000 and 2005 en a variety of trpics (narriage, gender-based violence and early irorriage and childbearing) yielded contradictory evidence regarding the nature and significance of the empowerment of women that has taken place in rural Bargladedn. W e documented a widespread perception that women are becoming better edxated, better informed, more daring and more resourceful than they used to be, as a result of exposure to education, mass media, credit programs, employment crrxrtunities and health services (Schüler , 2006b) . But at the same tine, women were continuirg to transmit genfer inequality to the next generation ry rrarrying daughters at early ages, and pressuring daughters-in-law to bear children at young ages (Schüler et al. …

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