African Cities: Questioning marriage, childbirth and gender norms in Lomé
Sep 25, 2023 — 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
First conference of the series: African cities through the lens of family, local dynamics and societal transformation.
In a context where permanent celibacy is virtually non-existent and having children is a guarantee of respectability, we are questioning the transmission of gender norms and making-family in Lomé, Togo.
To do so, we mobilize two ethnographic surveys conducted in the capital between 2014 and 2022 among single and/or childless people who are on the fringe of dominant family norms.
We'll show that the family ideal is perennial, which is why young people most often aspire to marriage, want children, and get reminded of the norm affecting them. However, attitudes to norms differ according to gender. Men, who are single at 30 and mainly facing economic hardship, seek financial autonomy as a precondition for marriage. Women also seek economic independence, but this goes hand in hand with a postponement of marriage and childbirth in the name of other forms of social fulfillment deemed difficult to reconcile with marriage.
We insist on the fact that women are both the most active and the most visible in the transmission of norms. And that they are also the ones who distance themselves from them the most.
Charlotte Vampo holds a doctorate in ethnology from the University of Paris. She is a post-doctoral researcher at the Laboratoire Population Environnement Développement (Université Aix-Marseille, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement). She teaches the "Regards croisés sur le genre en Afrique Subsaharienne" course at Science Po. Her research focuses on women's work, celibacy and family transformations. She is currently working with/on scientists, particularly women, in France, Togo and Chad.
Fatoumata Ouattara is an anthropologist at l'Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) and a member of the Laboratoire Population Environnement et Développement (Université Aix-Marseille, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) in Marseille. Her research focuses on vulnerability, stigmatization, marginalization and public policy on abortion. She also studies the methodological and epistemological challenges of community-based research. She coordinates the French National Research Agency's research program "Des marges aux normes. Regards croisés sur les transformations des liens familiaux en Afrique" (2020-2023). She conducts fieldwork in Burkina Faso and Togo.