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Women's Autonomy and Gender Equity in Mali: Examining The Influence of Marriage on Perceptions of Women's Value

Laurence, Colleen Elizabeth (2012)
Master's Thesis (109 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Stephenson, Robert
Committee Members: McFarland, Deborah A
Research Fields: Gender Studies; Health Sciences, Public Health
Partnering Agencies: International Non-governmental organization (e.g., CARE, Inc.)
Keywords: Autonomy; Gender equity; Women's health; Women's value; Marriage; Arranged marriage; Endogenous marriage; Women's income; Intimate partner violence; Mali
Program: Rollins School of Public Health, Hubert Department of Global Health
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Women's Autonomy and Gender Equity in Mali:
Examining The Influence of Marriage on Perceptions of Women's Value
Background: Marriage forces women to reconsider their autonomy, inherent value,
and value in relation to others. Women's experienced autonomy and equity as well as
their perceptions thereof are influenced by their husbands, mothers-in-law, and co-wives,
who harbor their own beliefs. We believe that the institution of marriage
reifies gender inequity rather than ameliorates it, which may portend negative
consequences for the health of women.
This thesis aims to understand how marital characteristics influence
perceptions of women's value among women, their husbands, their mothers-in-law, and
co-wives in rural Mali.
From June to July 2011, the Project Espoir Baseline Survey randomly
surveyed 600 households from the Bankasse and Bandiagara districts in North-Central
Mali. The sample size after accounting for improbable and missing
observations was 488 women, 466 husbands, 260 mothers-in-law, and 211 co-wives.
This thesis used linear regression to assess the significance of marital characteristics with
regard to two continuous outcome indices - household autonomy and gender equity -
which were created using factor analysis.
Women in endogenous marriages were more likely
to poorly esteem their own autonomy (β = 0.34, p-value = .002), but embrace gender
equity (β = -0.48, p-value <0.0001). Women who had a say in their marriage also
reported higher perceived autonomy (β = -0.33, p-value < 0.0001). In addition to these
variables, respect by co-wives, trust by husbands, women's income, and parity also
influenced how women and others perceived women's value.
Conclusions: This thesis reinforces the connection between marriage and its influence
on the perceived value of women. Based on the results, it reasons that the conditions of
marriage, like the extent of a woman's say in a decision, may influence
perceptions of her value for the remainder of her marriage. Qualitative research might be
employed to further explain this relationship as well as the ways in which women relate
to female counterparts in the home. Given these findings, CARE Mali should consider
implementing village savings and loans associations to increase women's
income and, by extension, functional autonomy; capitalizing on women's
relationships with co-wives and mothers-in-law for programming and messaging; and
increasing gender sensitivity education.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction 1

1.1 Introduction and Study Rationale 1

1.2 National and Regional Data for Women's Health in Mali 3

1.3 Study Purpose 4

1.4 Study Significance 5

Chapter 2: Literature Review 6

2.1 Deconstructing Women's Value - Women's Autonomy and Gender Equity 6

2.1.1 Household Autonomy 7

2.1.2 Mobility and Physical Autonomy 8

2.1.3 Financial Autonomy 9

2.1.4 External Validity of Indicators for Autonomy 11

2.1.5 Synergy Between Domains and Household Autonomy in Mali 11

2.1.6 Gender Equity As An Outcome Indicator 12

2.2 Women's Autonomy and Health 13

2.2.1 Ethnicity and Autonomy 14

2.2.2 Education and Autonomy 15

2.2.3 Employment and Income and Autonomy 18

2.2.4 Age, Parity, and Autonomy 20

2.3 Marriage and Health 22

2.3.1 Marriage in Mali 23

2.3.2 The Influence of Polygamy on Women's Health 24

2.3.3 The Influence of Early Marriage and IPV on Women's Health 25

2.3.4 Arranged Marriage and Having a Say in Marriage Decisions 29

2.4 Extended Family Networks and Health 30

2.4.1 Husbands 31

2.4.2 Mothers-in-Law and Co-wives 34

2.5 Contributions to Existing Literature 37

Chapter 3: Methodology 39

3.1 Project Background and Sampling Procedure 39

3.2 Instrument Development and Survey Protocol 40

3.3 Covariates of Interest 41

3.4 Outcome variables 46

3.5 Improbable Values and Missing Data 47

3.6 Plan for Analysis 49

Chapter 4: Results 51

4.1 Demographic Profile 51

4.2 Profile of Marital Characteristics 54

4.3 Index Variables for Attitudes Towards IPV, Traditional Birth Practices, Household Autonomy, and Gender Equity 57

4.4 Bivariate and Regression Analyses for Household Autonomy 60

4.5 Bivariate and Regression Analyses for Gender Equity 65

4.6 Summary 68

Chapter 5: Discussion 69

5.1 The Influence of Women's Choice and Arranged Marriage on Women's Perceived Autonomy 69

5.2 The Influence of Endogenous Marriage on Perceptions of Autonomy and Value 70

5.3 The Influence of Attitudes Towards IPV On Perceptions of Autonomy and Value 72

5.4 The Role of Income in Positively Shaping Women's Perceived Autonomy 73

5.5 Respect Among Co-Wives As An Impetus for Increased Gender Equity and Intra-Household Cooperation 75

5.6 Perceived Trust by Husband As A Limiting Factor for Autonomy and Equity 76

5.7 The Influence of Parity and Traditional Birth Practices on Perceptions of Equity 77

5.8 Recommendations 78

5.8.1 Further Research 78

5.8.2 For Development Partners in Mali 79

5.8.3 For Government Stakeholders 83

5.9 Limitations 84

Chapter 6: Conclusion 85

Appendix A 86

References 87


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