Women’s Empowerment across Generations in Bangladesh: Influences on the Timing of Marriage and Childbearing

Sidney Ruth Schuler, Academy for Educational Development (AED)
Elisabeth Rottach, Academy for Educational Development (AED)
Farzana Islam, Jahangirnagar University
Lisa M. Bates, Columbia University

Analyses using data from surveys carried out in 1994 and 2002 in six villages of rural Bangladesh failed to support the hypothesis that daughters and daughters-in-law of empowered women would marry and begin childbearing later than others. This qualitative study: (a) explores processes through which women influence age at marriage and age at initiation of childbearing in the next generation of women; and (b) investigates whether, and how, institutions and processes resistant to change may be undermining women's empowerment and its transmission and effects across generations. Open-ended, in-depth interviews were conducted with triads of women--young married women, their mothers, and their mothers-in-law. Husbands were interviewed to provide additional perspectives. The findings suggest that poverty and vulnerability to economic crisis are persistent constraints to later marriage and childbearing even in families of empowered women who are aware of the risks and disadvantages of early marriage and childbearing.

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Presented in Session 144: Childbearing in Latin America and Asia