Being born is a significant life event for every human being, yet it is treated differently depending on where you are born. As technology has become more advanced, it has taken place of many cultural practices especially when it comes to health. Brigitte Jordan’s article on authoritative knowledge was very intriguing to be because I realized that I also fall into this type of thinking. Authoritative knowledge is a social process where it is determined that one kind of knowledge transcends any other that applies to the situation (Jordan 1992). There is a culture of authoritative knowledge in the medical field and it seems to be most prevalent between developed and undeveloped countries. Throughout history we see more technologically advanced countries exercise authoritative knowledge over natives or those in rural areas, and often force change to happen. Yet in some places, it is the culture that practices authoritative knowledge more than the advancing technology.
The civil war in Yemen has drastically intensified the misfortune that mothers and infants experience, but there is an underlying culture that continues to bring more misfortune to some. I will primarily focus on the birth culture of Yemen that has existed through most of their history. Without a doubt, males exercise authoritative knowledge in Yemen. The head of each family is the eldest male, and women are secondary. A woman’s social status is traditionally determined by the number of male children she bears. Older males determine the future of a child, since they primarily make the big decisions in a family. One of the most important social events in Yemeni society is the birth of a boy, and a circumcision ceremony is prepared promptly. On the other hand, there is no celebration when a girl is born, and female genital mutilation is practiced in many places (Burrowes et al 2018). To paint a picture of the situation: the infant mortality rate is 46 in 1,000, the lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 90 (most women have 6 children), and only 14% of women have at least four visits to a health professional during their pregnancy (UNICEF 2013). Though it is women who carry a baby, they still do not receive the care that they need.
Only 35% of births have a skilled attendant such as a physician or midwife. Most women give birth in their homes where a close relative will help them. Another cultural factor that affects birth is that childbirth in Yemen is viewed as a female occasion. When most physicians are males, this can pose a problem if medical care is needed. Only 2.4% of women make their own health decisions (Smithson Riniker 2012). The chasm between men and women is great in Yemen, and males have the authoritative knowledge in the culture. The system for birthing rites is informal compared to most countries. A birth certificate application is completed based on testimony and submitted to the local civil registry office. Since there is not an established system of recording vital statistics, it is not certain if the information is true (U.S. Department of State 2018). Yemen has one of the lowest birth registration rates in the world, at about 17% of children registered, and the war keeps this number low. Mothers in rural areas or in lower social classes rarely register their children. The impact of not having a birth certificate is serious and puts children at a disadvantage for different opportunities. Many are not able to go to school or receive healthcare and cannot be found if kidnapped (Kabir et al 2014). From the moment a child is born, they are subject to the social norms and how society has shaped their life. It is tragic how women and those in low social classes are stuck in a vicious cycle that continues to break them down. There is much to be thankful for as someone who lives a life these people cannot even imagine.
Burrowes, R., Wenner, M.W. (2018). Yemen. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Yemen/Daily-life-and-social-customs
Jordan, B. (1992). Technology and social interaction: notes on the achievement of authoritative knowledge in complex settings. Institute for Research on Learning. IRL92-0027.
Kabir, I., Bile, M.A., Bajwa, M.A., Pasini, M., Harneis, J.M., Rose, K. (2014). UNICEF Yemen situation report: birth registration. UNICEF.
Smithson Riniker, K. (2012). Women’s health in Yemen: factors influencing maternal and infant health, fertility rates, the public health care system, education, and globalization. Journal of Global Health Perspectives. Edition 1.
UNICEF. (2013). At a glance: Yemen statistics. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/yemen_statistics.html
U.S. Department of State. (2018). Republic of Yemen: Reciprocity Schedule. Retrieved from https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/Yemen.html