Tracing Shadows: How Gendered Power Relations Shape the Impacts of Maternal Death on Living Children in Sub Saharan Africa

Social Science & Medicine 135 (2015) 143e150

8 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2021

See all articles by Alicia Ely Yamin

Alicia Ely Yamin

Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics; Harvard University - Harvard Law School; Partners in Health; Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) - Center on Law and Social Transformation

Junior Bazile

Partners in Health

Lucia Knight

University of the Western Cape - School of Public Health

Mitike Molla Sisay

Addis Ababa University - School of Public Health

Emily Maistrellis

Harvard University - FXB Center for Health and Human Rights

Jennifer Leaning

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Date Written: June 2015

Abstract

Driven by the need to better understand the full and intergenerational toll of maternal mortality (MM), a mixed-methods study was conducted in four countries in sub-Saharan Africa to investigate the impacts of maternal death on families and children. The present analysis identifies gender as a fundamental driver not only of maternal, but also child health, through manifestations of gender inequity in house-hold decision making, labor and caregiving, and social norms dictating the status of women. Focus group discussions were conducted with community members, and in depth qualitative interviews with key-informants and stakeholders, in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, and South Africa between April 2012 and October 2013. Findings highlight that socially constructed gender roles, which define mothers as care-givers and fathers as wage earners, and which limit women's agency regarding childcare decisions, among other things, create considerable gaps when it comes to meeting child nutrition, education, and health care needs following a maternal death. Additionally, our findings show that maternal deaths have differential effects on boy and girl children, and exacerbate specific risks for girl children, including early marriage, early pregnancy, and school drop-out. To combat both MM, and to mitigate impacts on children, investment in health services interventions should be complemented by broader interventions regarding social protection, as well as aimed at shifting social norms and opportunity structures regarding gendered divisions of labor and power at household, community, and society levels.

Suggested Citation

Yamin, Alicia Ely and Bazile, Junior and Knight, Lucia and Sisay, Mitike Molla and Maistrellis, Emily and Leaning, Jennifer, Tracing Shadows: How Gendered Power Relations Shape the Impacts of Maternal Death on Living Children in Sub Saharan Africa (June 2015). Social Science & Medicine 135 (2015) 143e150, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3795601

Alicia Ely Yamin (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics ( email )

23 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 02155
United States

Harvard University - Harvard Law School ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Partners in Health ( email )

641 Huntington Ave, 1st Floor
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) - Center on Law and Social Transformation ( email )

PO Box 6033 Postterminalen
Bergen, NO-5892
Norway

Junior Bazile

Partners in Health ( email )

641 Huntington Ave, 1st Floor
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Lucia Knight

University of the Western Cape - School of Public Health ( email )

Cape Town
South Africa

Mitike Molla Sisay

Addis Ababa University - School of Public Health ( email )

Addis Ababa
Ethiopia

Emily Maistrellis

Harvard University - FXB Center for Health and Human Rights ( email )

651 Huntington Ave.
7TH FLOOR
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Jennifer Leaning

Harvard University - T.H. Chan School of Public Health ( email )

677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02115
United States

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