On the basis of first-hand data, we document the evolution of marriage, divorce and remarriage practices in Northern Burkina Faso, and we highlight the emancipatory trajectories of women. We find a strong persistence of early marriages of the arranged and polygamous types. According to a widespread understanding, this finding suggests that women's position and status have not improved over the last generations. However, this is at odds with other key findings, more specifically the increased involvement of women in the selection of their spouse, the rapid increase in divorces initiated by women, their frequent subsequent remarriages, and their positive perception of polygamy. Moreover, second marriages do not appear to cause a deterioration in women's wellbeing, and we find no evidence that children of divorced women are discriminated against in their household. To reconcile these apparently contradictory findings, we propose an interpretation that rests on the idea that a category of women may act strategically. More precisely, a woman may accept an early marriage anticipating that she will be able to divorce, and later remarry, if the union is unsuccessful from her standpoint.
- Women empowerment