The role of education in transitions to womanhood
: the case of the Gambia

  • Emma Williams

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Arts by Research


    Girls’ enrolment in formal schooling in sub-Saharan Africa has significantly increased and this has started to reduce gender disparity. By being enrolled within the education system, more and more girls are spending their childhood and experiencing their transitions to adulthood while at school. As a consequence, this research argues that girls are having to negotiate between conflicting notions of education in addition to social and cultural expectations of womanhood. This research aims to critically evaluate the impact of education on the transitions to womanhood using The Gambia as a case study. This thesis explores how different educational achievements affect the complex and fluid notion of transitions to adulthood.

    The research utilises a qualitative approach to assess the impact of education on the transitions to womanhood in The Gambia. With a strong commitment to education the conventional transitions to womanhood of marriage and childbearing are competing with the more male dominated arena of work. The research groups included participants in school, dropped out of school and some who had never been to school. The participants narrated their perceptions and experiences of education, domestic roles, work, sexual and reproductive knowledge and behaviour, initiation ceremonies, marriage and childbearing. Narratives were also undertaken with some mothers to compare and contrast the experiences of transitions to womanhood with the introduction of education.

    Results illustrate how education can make a difference in some aspects of the transitions, including formal work opportunities and age of marriage but not in others. In a few transitions, cultural attitudes override education and there are still social pressures placed upon girls. However, the results also show how education creates challenges to transitions, including school increases the chance of girls being sexually exploited and how the quality of education creates problems for employment opportunities.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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