Silence, invisibility and agency: concealing pregnancies at school in Mozambique

Francesca Salvi

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    Silence and invisibility have received relatively little scholarly attention. When they have, they have been mostly considered in deficit: something to avoid and walk away from. In this article, I depart from that mainstream position to contribute to the growing literature around how silence and invisibility may be positively associated with power. I do this by considering the case of Mozambique, in relation to the management of pregnancies in the school setting. Here, national policy 39/GM/2003 indicates that girls that get pregnant while in education should be transferred to night classes. This measure responds to wider imperatives to bridge the gender gap in education by attempting to limit the occurrence of pregnancies in mainstream education. Yet, the policy is met with resistances, as young women in education enact a number of strategies to conceal their pregnancies and, thereby, the transfer to night course. Against this backdrop, I ask: what do silence and invisibility tell us about agency and identity? I engage with this question by weaving the voices and experiences of research participants within theories of development, feminist theories and local discourses of gender. By doing this, I argue that silence and invisibility may be powerful tools for agency, which denote an understanding of the main discourses of gender on the girls’ part, but also the capability to use such discourses to one’s advantage.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1195-1213
    Number of pages19
    JournalGender, Place & Culture
    Issue number8
    Early online date23 Oct 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


    • pregnancy
    • schooling
    • Mozambique
    • agency
    • silence
    • RCUK
    • ESRC
    • ES/H015086/1


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