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Gwendolen Burton

Infertility and pregnancy loss (miscarriage, termination, stillbirth and neonatal death) affect a significant proportion of our community, both women and men. While biblical narrative shows a range of reactions to infertility, the idea that a child is a blessing, or even a reward from God, can be unhelpful for people struggling with childlessness. Meanwhile, standard Jewish liturgy is completely silent, as though these issues are too painful to be confronted, even in prayer. Our prayer books must offer support and spiritual guidance to individuals at times of crisis. The article concludes with some new liturgy, and with relevant readings and prayers, adapted for the purpose, from existing prayer books.

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Calm Vessels

Cultural Expectations of Pregnant Women in Qatar

Susie Kilshaw, Daniel Miller, Halima Al Tamimi, Faten El-Taher, Mona Mohsen, Nadia Omar, Stella Major and Kristina Sole

This article explores emerging themes from the first stage of ethnographic research investigating pregnancy and loss in Qatar. Issues around the development of foetal personhood, the medical management of the pregnant body and the social role of the pregnant woman are explored. Findings suggest that Qatari women are expected to be calm vessels for their growing baby and should avoid certain foods and behaviours. These ideas of risk avoidance are linked to indigenous knowledge around a mother’s influence on a child’s health and traits. Motherhood holds a particularly important place in Qatari culture and in Islam, and women are ultimately responsible for protecting and promoting fertility and for producing healthy children.

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Kaoru Miyazawa

In this article I examine how a new immigrant girl from Jamaica participated in Abstinence Only Until Marriage (AOUM) classes at her school in New York City, and how her interpretation of the values taught in the classes shaped her aspirations for her future as well as the meaning of her past pregnancy. AOUM was a site in which the indirect and seductive power of the state motivated her to align her aspirations and method of attaining them with the neoliberal notion of success, and the neoconservative Christian notions related to family and sexuality in which, essentially, she did not believe. The finding shows that teaching sexuality as a personal matter only and separate from economic equality, and sexuality and reproductive rights does not contribute to the empowerment of girls. I conclude by suggesting that teaching sexuality as a public and political issue is an alternative method of empowerment.

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Girls in Transition

Negotiating, Constructing and Re-constructing Girlhood after the “Fall” in Rural Kenya

Christine Oduor-Ombaka

This article discusses problems of childbearing as experienced in rural Kenya by girls in their adolescence—a powerfully formative time of transition to adulthood. Findings reveal that girls face unique challenges and harsh choices when they are faced with pre-marital pregnancy such as emotional violence and abuse, early marriage, expulsion from school, unsafe abortion and poverty. Many Kenyans are calling on the government and communities to put into place policies and programs necessary for empowering girls with enough information to make a healthy and safe transition to adulthood.

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Aref Abu-Rabia

The main purpose of this article is to describe traditional breastfeeding practices among the pastoral tribes in the Middle East. It also examines beliefs and attitudes towards breastfeeding and related issues, including pregnancy, infections of the breast nipple, sources of milk, 'bad milk' syndrome and breastfeeding as a contraceptive method. The most significant findings are that mothers relate breastfeeding to their physical and psychological state. There are also symbolic and emotional relationships between human babies and the colostrum of animals. A survey of medicinal cures for problems related to breastfeeding reveals that these cures are based on substances found in the desert pastoral environment.

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Did Policy Change Work?

Oregon Women Continue to Encounter Delays in Medicaid Coverage for Abortion

Bayla Ostrach

Women in poverty experience greater delays in the process of seeking abortion. Timely access to both safe abortion care and early prenatal care reduces morbidity and mortality among pregnant women. This article examines the impacts of a policy change intended to facilitate poor women's applications for pregnancy-related Medicaid (a federally funded, state-administered health coverage programme for the poorest Americans), in Oregon (Western U.S.). The mixed-methods data from this applied anthropology study demonstrate that though health coverage waiting times grew shorter on average, poor women and the clinic staff who cared for them continued to perceive delays in obtaining Medicaid coverage for abortion. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.A. (aka Obama-care) is now thought to be contributing to a return to greater delays in accessing prenatal care and abortion. More research and advocacy are needed to improve access to reproductive health care through state Medicaid programmes.

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The 'Gendered Field' of Kaolinite Clay Production

Performance Characteristics among the Balengou

Ngambouk V. Pemunta

This article examines the 'gendered field' of kaolinite clay production and its integration into the local socio-cultural universe of the Balengou of the Western region of Cameroon. Kaolinite clay is produced and ingested mainly by women, especially during pregnancy so as to ensure that their children are born 'clean'. Used as a herbal additive, the clay is also believed to be imbued with sacred qualities and has a symbolic role in various communal rituals. Although geophagy—the practice of eating earth—is associated with harmful health effects, the various affordances offered by kaolinite clay as a valuable object of material culture constitute a specific entanglement of nature and culture. This study makes a modest contribution to the literature on the 'politics of value' and on the relationality of human/non-human interactions.

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Brigette Krieg

Statistical representation of young Indigenous women in Canada presents an alarming picture of adversity characterized by addiction, pregnancy, and academic underachievement. Using Photovoice as a vehicle for community dialogue and education, the goal of this project was not to further the literature that examines the limitations of young Indigenous women, but to examine their strengths and their resilience. The project intended to document the lived experiences of young Indigenous women and comment on youth-identified issues and responses to the challenges experienced by Indigenous girls residing in urban centres. The level of insight and maturity demonstrated by the photographers was astounding; these young girls were able to consider their own circumstances within the broader context of family and community. Further, they examined their circumstances critically in relation to the historical consequences of past generations. In doing this, the photographers, rather than getting trapped in a cycle of negativity reminiscing about past wrongs, created opportunity for positive change and raised hope for this generation.

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Thomas K. Hubbard

Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.

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The Abortion Referendum in Portugal

The Influence of Psychosocial Variables in the Voting Intentions and Behavior of Portuguese Youth

Ana Figueiredo and Jorge Silva

February 11th 2007 set the date for what would be an intense and passionate discussion on a gendered health related issue in Portugal: abortion. In the referendum, approximately 44% of the eligible population voted, and from these 59% voted for the legalization of abortion in Portugal. Hence, this referendum brought about changes in the Portuguese law, which now allows legal abortion to occur at the desire of the woman until the 10th week of pregnancy. The present research consists of a study in which 205 university students fully responded to 4 data collection sessions between November 2006 and March 2007. The goal of the study was to understand the most relevant psychosocial variables when trying to explain the voting intentions and voting behavior of Portuguese youth. The variables in the present study included participants’ gender, political orientation, religious affiliation and practice, sexual attitudes and attitudes towards abortion. Our results show that all of the above variables, except for gender, are relevant for the opinion formation about this topic. Approximately 94% of our participants reported they had the intention to vote, although only 64% of these actually voted on the day of the referendum. Finally, we found that participants rely mostly on the strength of their attitudes towards abortion in relation to their voting intention, while relying mostly on the strength of their normative religious beliefs in relation to their voting behavior. Implications of our results for understanding the politics of abortion legislation are discussed.