A Society of Women

Elizabeth Schmidt - Senegal


May 16, 2015

I approached my community in Joal knowing that I would be faced with gender roles that I didn’t agree with, and I told myself that I would need to stay open minded and respect the culture in place. That’s easier said than done. I found that I could respect people’s way of life, but I was reserving at least a little judgment for traditions that I saw as limiting: The idea that a woman has to get married and have children before 30 or no one will want her because she will be too old to have babies, which then leads to fathers accepting husbands for their daughters who they would otherwise turn down because they are desperate for them to get married for fear that they won’t be taken care of as adults or won’t be able to have a family; that women have to take care of the house before they work outside the home, which leads many women to never being able to work for themselves because the home responsibilities are so great and then having to be completely financially dependent on their husbands, who may or may not give them anything more than the bear minimum to eat; and lastly, that a husband is like a father figure to his wife and has the final say in all family matters.

I first felt the impact of gender roles personally on the soccer field. Every day since I had arrived, there had been a soccer game in the school next to my house and many of the players were the guys (mostly around their twenties) that my family and I sat with outside after lunch. I began asking them to play and almost every time received the same response, Its too dangerous for girls to play soccer with men.” To which I argued

Elizabeth Schmidt