When reproduction is not a choice: Studies of infertility in sub-Saharan Africa

Marida Hollos, Brown University
Ulla M Larsen, University of Maryland
Oka Obono, University of Ibadan
Bruce Whitehouse, Brown University

This paper examines local meanings of infertility as they are shaped by the larger social and cultural context; the impact of the prevalence of infertility on these meanings; and how the above affect community responses and life experiences in two African communities. The interdisciplinary research was conducted among the Ijo and the Yakurr people of southern Nigeria. The methodology included a survey of approximately 100 infertile and a matching sample of 100 fertile women as well as in-depth interviews with infertile and fertile women in Amakiri (Delta State) and Lopon (Cross River). Findings indicate that while there are variations in the extent to which infertility is considered to be problematic, due to a number of factors, including the level and the history of infertility in a particular location, the descent structure and the symbolic meanaing of infertility, the necessity for a woman to have a child remains basic in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Presented in Session 89: Reproductive health rights and choices 2