I have chosen to discuss the maternal health issue in Nigeria. This topic is a concern to only Nigeria but every country around the world. No one should have to face massive maternal health care issues anywhere around the world. I will also cover the cultural, social, and political determinants such as gender inequality that influences maternal health in Nigeria. I believe that the feminist theory does a great job bringing all of these topics together. Maternal health in Nigeria is greatly affected by Nigeria’s patriarchal society. Women are not given the same rights and are looked down upon culturally, socially, and politically. This gender inequality has a huge impact on the maternal health of women and how it is suffering. The feminist theory embodies intersectionality. This directly relates to the way women are mistreated and not given the tools to grow and practice good health. Throughout this essay you will be able to see how the maternal health issue and all of its determinants are directly related to the feminist theory.
Maternal health faces issues in the developing world, particularly in Nigeria. A woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is 1 in 13 (UNICEF). To put this in perspective the maternal death risk in the United States is only about 1 in 2,400 (Osotimehin). This statistic is truly concerning. Nigeria is lacking the technology and resources to provide the adequate care for women having babies. For example, a skilled attendant attends to only 12 percent of women in Nigeria during delivery (Galadanci). This is terrifying considering that the use of a skilled attendant is a key step in reducing the half million maternal deaths in developing countries each year (Galadanci). Nigeria must implement better safety precautions while preforming operations such as birth.
Culturally this issue of maternal death reflects the low status of women in a society (Osotimehin). Women in Nigeria are at a disadvantage. It is very common for young women in Nigeria to be married off to an older man when they are very young, sometimes just 9 or 10 years old (Babalola). The cultural norms that exist in Nigeria prevent young girls from seeking help and knowledge regarding pregnancy and childbirth. Newly pregnant women are told to keep it secret and that makes it difficult for women to seek help for delivery, this is why many Nigerian women have home births. It is actually not uncommon for a woman in Nigeria to deliver the baby all by herself, it shows that the woman is strong in Nigerian culture. Without the use of contraceptives women tend to get pregnant at a rapid rate and without the use of abortion women have no option to terminate the baby.
Women in Nigeria face many problems when it comes to their maternal health. Of the surviving mothers, many face compromised health after the delivery. Studies show that 100,000 to 1 million women in Nigeria may be suffering from obstetric fistula, a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum (UNICEF). This disease is serious and would not be such a common problem among Nigerian women if they had the adequate resources and technology in place. Abnormal bleeding, prolonged labor, and postpartum fever are also some of the most common complications facing mothers in Nigeria today.
To reduce the amount of maternal deaths that Nigeria faces each year it is essential that the country focus on the use of antenatal care. Unfortunately more than 70 percent of Nigerians live on less than $1 per day, impairing their ability to afford health care (UNICEF). As a result, only about three fifths of woman receive any form of antenatal care in Nigeria (Babalola). This care is not only about the fetus inside the mother, but it correlates positively with maternal mortality reduction. This is due to the testing that is done through antenatal care and the vast amount of education it provides to the mother regarding her body.
The people of Nigeria face many different social determinants that impact their health. One specific social determinant that is the most impactful in my opinion is Gender Inequality. Women face gender inequality in the many aspects of their lives, leaving them with horrible outcomes. Women are more likely to be to be poor, uneducated, and without political power than men, due to discrimination right from childhood (WHO, 2005). This gender inequality correlates directly with the high rates of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
Being a female in Nigeria means that you are not granted the same rights as men, leading to a lesser chance of receiving any health care at all. In order to receive health care in Nigeria it comes at a high cost. Hospitals are mainly private because public hospitals do not have enough healthcare providers who are willing to work for such little money. Most women cannot afford to seek treatment at private hospitals and are forced to stay home for events such as giving birth. This unfortunate situation leads many women to face other health issues that come about while giving birth in an insanitary environment. For example, 1,500 per 100,000 women face maternal mortality (WHO, 2005).
Women in Nigeria are 56% literate compared to 72% of men that are literate; illiteracy is directly related to poverty, malnutrition, ill health and child infant mortality (WHO, 2005). The fact that women are much less educated than men in Nigeria leads them to a disadvantage when it comes to opportunity. Women are not given the opportunity to become educated or further extend the education they may already have. If women were more educated they would be more aware of disease and how to prevent it. Its shocking to me that the probability of death, among children born to illiterate mothers, is two times higher than those born to literate mothers (WHO, 2005).
Women are also viewed as sexual objects in Nigeria, often leading them to lack control over their sexual activities leading them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS (WHO, 2005). Currently 1,700 thousand women in Nigeria are living with HIV (UNICEF, 2012). HIV can be directly related to the sexual violence that women in Nigeria are facing today. The patriarchal ideology in Nigeria has much to do with this health concern. Women all over Nigeria face acts of sexual violence as a normal part of life. Most of these men committing these crimes go unchallenged, unreported, and unpunished owing to several factors, which include culture, popular beliefs, ignorance, and statutory constraints (Izugbara, 2004). HIV has a horrible affect on babies all around Nigeria, which is also a key factor in the problem that maternal health faces.
The feminist theory relates directly to the maternal health issue in Nigeria. Feminist anthropology can be separated into three temporal categories. The first wave of the feminist theory began in 1850, when much research was solely based on men. Fortunately, we no longer assume what is true for men are true for women (lecture 5.1). The feminists sought to include women’s voices in ethnography and give female perspective on experiences and events. The second was begun in 1920, separating sex and gender. Sex was a biological term, while gender could be explained culturally. The third wave started in 1980 and is currently the wave in the present. This was the start of intersectionality, one of the most important contributions of the feminist theory. Being categorized as a woman no longer superseded other distinctions and roles. There was much more that diversified the role of a women; including class, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion (Bratton, 1989).
There are also four overriding theories that have influenced feminist anthropology. The first is the practice theory, which states that all social activity comes down to practice. This was a reaction against Durkheim, who assumed women didn’t have a symbolic position. The second overriding theory is positionality, a reaction against cultural feminism. Cultural feminism stated that women should embrace their roles such as nurturing and was against women being out in the working environment. Performance is the third theory, which defines gender as the effect of discourse, and sex as the effect of gender. The last theory is the Queer theory. The Queer theory is an opposition to the concept of “normalcy”.
The feminist theory is the best theory to use in examining the health issue of maternal health in Nigeria. This is because the feminist theory embodies intersectionality. The women in Nigeria are mistreated and are not given the tools and opportunity to grow, as they should. If women had the opportunity to work and make a good living in Nigeria they would be able to afford the health care needed to take care of their maternal bodies. Most women in Nigeria are living in poverty, resulting in lack of health care services that they can afford. Private hospitals are expensive in Nigeria, and pregnant women who cannot afford them resort to mission houses, which puts women at risk of maternal mortality (Lanre-Abass, 2008). Many women also resort to their own homes and cannot afford to hire help during the pregnancy. The role of women in Nigeria is very much affected by socioeconomic status, education, and class. The low SES, low education, and low class level all lead to their lack of opportunity. This lack of opportunity in turn, leads to lack of health care services that they can afford. Which then leads to devastating maternal health issues and outcomes. It is not surprising that 1 in 29 women in Nigeria will face a maternal death (UNICEF, 2012). If the women of Nigeria were given tools such as contraceptives and education there wouldn’t be so many pregnancies and there also wouldn’t be so many maternal deaths. Only 17.5 percent of women in Nigeria use some form of birth control (UNICEF, 2012).
Overall this problem that Nigeria is facing regarding maternal health and mortality is not just their problem, it is OUR problem. As the United States of America it is our duty to bring attention to this horrific problem that maternal health is facing in Nigeria. It is our duty to bring attention to the inadequate health care facilities, lack of transportation to institutional care, inability to pay for service and resistance to modern health care (UNICEF). As you can see gender inequality in Nigeria is a main social detriment, leading to many health care problems regarding women’s health. Women face a disadvantage when it comes to income, education, and political power. A patriarchal country like Nigeria may be expected to face such problems but that doesn’t make them okay. Action needs to be taken against the discrimination that women face so that they can better take care of themselves. Healthcare in Nigeria must be revised for the women that are suffering. Not only the feminists must also look into, the intersectionality that is taking place. Women must be given the tools and opportunity to grow in Nigeria. This will allow them to practice good health, which in turn will have a positive affect on the maternal health issue that Nigeria faces. With all of the knowledge on these topics around the world and particularly in the United States, I believe that this issue will be resolved. It is our responsibility, our duty, to make sure that women in Nigeria are able to practice healthy maternal practices.
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