Home Institution

Barnard College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Senegal: Global Security and Religious Pluralism


As a matrilocal and collectivist society, Dakar is an urban space where the woman is at the center. With this in mind, it is possible to understand all the pressures women in urban Senegalese society face. Women are the center of the household, thus being responsible for the family, finances, and the social aspect of welcoming visitors. In addition to these factors, women in Senegal also deal with community expectations and responsibilities since there is larger emphasis on the community, rather than the nuclear family in Senegalese society. This paper examines how these two aspects of Senegalese society (matrilocality and collectivity) affect the individual experiences of eight women living in Dakar. By highlighting each narrative as a unique one, this paper argues for an individualized approach to mental health, which can include both positive and negative experiences. Since the term “mental health” is a negatively charged term in Senegalese society, this paper frames it as one’s thoughts, feelings, and emotions, so as to truly discover what can happen with the elimination of a charged term. The collectivist and matrilocal nature of Senegalese society in general, and the fast-paced structure of an urban space like Dakar more specifically, creates close interpersonal relationships, prayer, and unintentional emotional support circles as ways for women to move forward with their everyday lives. Although collectivity and matrilocality are what create societal pressures for these women, it is these same two factors which foster the ability to move forward with social coping mechanisms, which in turn creates the “what truly matters” mentality of Senegalese women.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Mental and Social Health | Multicultural Psychology | Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Studies