No Shame. No Sorrow. Divorce Means It’s Party Time in Mauritania.

Divorce in the country is so common, according to Nejwa El Kettab, a sociologist who studies women in Mauritanian society, partly because the majority Maure community inherited strong “matriarchal tendencies” from their Berber ancestors. Divorce parties were a way for the country’s nomadic communities to spread the word of a woman’s status. Compared with other Muslim countries, women in Mauritania are quite free, she said, and can even pursue what she called a “matrimonial career.”

“A young, divorced woman is not a problem,” Ms. El Kettab said, adding that divorced women were seen as experienced and hence desirable. “Divorce can even increase women’s value.”

As Ms. Jeilaniy carefully rearranged her melafha — a long cloth wrapped around her hair and body, its bright white chosen to highlight the dark henna — her mother, Salka Bilale, strode across the family courtyard and crossed her arms, posing for pictures destined for campaign posters.

Ms. Bilale had also divorced young, become a pharmacist and never remarried. Now, she was running to become the first ever female member of the national legislature for Ouadane, their hilltop town of a few thousand people living in simple stone houses abutting a 900-year-old ruined city.

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