I will be examining how culture affects birth in Sierra Leone using the Jordan article to develop my ideas. It seems as though many of the traditions that used to come along with having a child in Sierra Leone are diminishing while new ones have taken place. For example, many children are no longer being registered at birth. This means that most do not have birth certificates, access to health services, or protection against child rights violations because they are not within the legal system. This is largely because the men of families have lost faith in the governments use of this information. Not getting a birth certificate though, sets up a lot of issues not only for the child and mother, but also for the government (Jah 2014). This also causes issues for researchers and the government when trying to get statistics on birth and death rates and studying maternal outcomes. Having children also used to be more family based and that tradition is shifting. Traditions have been adjusted to women giving birth and receiving care where the husband approves. In traditional African homes, the husband also provides the funds, so if a woman wants to go somewhere else or see a different doctor, she would have to pay herself and possibly be left by the husband. In some places, women are in a way denied from receiving pre-natal care from qualified professionals because new traditions prevent them from interacting with anyone other than their spouse or a female family member while pregnant. In a way, this kind of gives men the authoritative knowledge in Sierra Leone. They basically set up all the rule and guidelines and are not persuaded otherwise. Men often have “rules” of what the mother should eat, how many children they will have, what kind of care she will get, where she will have her child, and how she will have her child. In a sense, I think this relates to what was described in Brigitte Jordan’s research. She discussed that when a woman’s body tells her what to do, she will instinctively do it, and I think that this is what these men are trying to influence. While, I don’t agree with the way it’s done, I think they ultimately just don’t want their partner to be in an unnatural, untraditional position (Jordan 1992). Alternatively, there are some villages where women are to be left alone and have no contact with doctors or other community members and that making noise while in pain is seen as weak (VOA News 2010). This really shows that women in Sierra Leone don’t have much say when it comes to their birthing experience. They are often times shut out from the outside world and left to submit to the traditions that have been in place to for so long. In 2012, the Sierra Leone government tried to make some initiatives to get more women to give birth in clinics by introducing free support as long as they deliver in a clinic or hospital. They also wanted to try to reduce the maternal mortality rate that is plaguing country. Unfortunately, this initiative banned birthing attendants from assisting in deliveries. Many of these birthing assistants are part of the tradition that most men approve of. By banning them, a lot of women were left alone and without any type of care, especially those in rural areas. These free clinics were not taken to very well by the people and seemed to have a backfiring effect on the issues that the country is facing (Whitaker 2012).
Jordan, Brigitte. “Technology and Social Interaction: Notes on the Achievement of Authoritative Knowledge in Complex Settings.” Institute for Research on Learning. 1992.
Jah, Rosmarie. “Birth Certificates for Children in Sierra Leone.” United Nations. United Nations, 2014. https://sl.one.un.org/2014/06/04/birth-certificates-for-children-in-sierra-leone/
VOA. “Some Traditional Practices May Affect Maternal Health in Sierra Leone.” VOA. VOA, 22 Oct. 2010. https://www.voanews.com/a/sierra-leone-tradition-maternal-mortality-79343832/416449.html
Whitaker, Kati. “Is Sierra Leone Right to Ban Traditional Birth Attendants?.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 17 Jan. 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/jan/17/traditional-birth-attendants-sierra-leone