Cross-Generational Effects of Women's Empowerment in Rural Bangladesh

Sidney Ruth Schuler, Academy for Educational Development (AED)
Farzana Islam, Jahangirnagar University
Md. Khairul Islam, Plan International
Lisa M. Bates, Harvard University

The South Asian mother-in-law has been vilified in literature and oral traditions from the health and family planning fields as a promoter of pronatalism, son preference, harmful traditional health practices, failure to seek reproductive health care, and domestic violence against young daughters-in-law. This paper examines the hypothesis that when mothers and mother-in-law are empowered socially and economically there will be tangible benefits for the health and well-being of the next generation. Recent data from interviews with married men and women and their mothers and mothers-in-law are used to investigate the effects of women's empowerment on a range of next-generation outcomes including: age at marriage and first birth, educational attainment, empowerment and gender attitudes, experiences of domestic violence, and reproductive health outcomes and behavior. Case studies are used to explore the strategies women employ to try to influence the behavior of their sons, daughters and daughters-in-law and to ensure their welfare.

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Presented in Session 149: Gender and Patriarchy in India and Bangladesh