The influence of cultural and gender practices on fertility rates in Ruhaama County, Ntungamo District
Komurembe, Gorett Rwabunumi
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Culture simply means common beliefs and practices of a group of people. Culture defines the life choices of people thereby being part of the consequences that such choices bring. Culture is significant in understanding human fertility rates in modifying sexual fertility by relating sex and reproduction to the culture’s value system. There is belief that cultural values are inextricably woven in decisions that favor or oppose programmes affecting sexual activity and fertility. This belief is reinforced by modern demographical trends in the world and Uganda in particular where despite the harangued dangers of high population growth and thus measures put in place to control it has not yielded tangible fruits. Fertility rates in Uganda at 6.7 are one of the highest in the world. Consequently this has been attributed to the cultural and gender practices amongst the communities. This research report was compiled basing on the findings of a field study carried out in 2 sub-counties of Ntungamo and Itojo. 80 respondents were selected randomly in a household survey while 20 were key informants. The study set out to identify the cultural practices that inform and influence fertility in Ruhaama; assess the main gender practices at community and household level that affect fertility decisions and to identify other factors which influence and affect fertility decisions. Through a review of literature, the researcher was able to identify some links between culture and fertility both in varied time and geographical settings across the globe, thereby helping in the formulation of the objectives. In order to achieve the above objectives, the study adopted an exploratory research design, using a cross section of methods including qualitative and quantitative methods. Tools used included interview guide targeting key informants for qualitative data and a household survey questionnaire targeting the general members of the community. The findings of the study indicated that although the respondents were knowledgeable about family planning methods, majority were not using them. The study also found out that among the cultural practices relating to fertility in Ntungamo are cultural beliefs in extending the family lineage, polygamy, producing children of the same sex, early marriages, extra marital sex and sexual rituals. Among the gender practices that affect fertility, the respondents thought that these were women subordination, women economic dependence, women’s lack of control over information sources, women’s low status and multiple roles in a home. The other factors that affect fertility included distance to health facilities, availability of health facilities and services, education, awareness, financial ability, and religion. From the above findings it can be noted that cultural and gender practices had a huge impact on the total fertility rates in Ruhaama County. However, these were supplemented by other socio- economic factors to exasperate the already high fertility rate. It can be observed that the promotion of gender equality is paramount in the effective adoption of birth control methods and as such messages should focus on promotion of gender equity particularly the promotion of education of a girl child, women entrepreneurship and enterprise development so as to enable them acquire economic potential to take their own decisions and afford birth control methods without having to first beg the men. As such family planning service programs need to be gender and culturally sensitive in their implementation. Fertility transformation targets and the means to achieve them should consider men and their reproductive health needs to achieve total and equitable birth control targets.