Journal Article

Women’s fears and men’s anxieties: The impact of family planning on gender relations in northern Ghana

The Navrongo experiment, a family planning and health project in northern Ghana, has demonstrated that an appropriately designed, community-based family planning program can produce a change in contraceptive practice that had been considered unattainable in such a setting. Simultaneously, however, evidence suggests that newly introduced family planning services and contraceptive availability can activate tension in gender relations. In this society, where payment of bridewealth signifies a woman’s requirement to bear children, there are deeply ingrained expectations about women’s reproductive obligations. Physical abuse and reprisals from the extended family pose substantial threats to women; men are anxious that women who practice contraception might be unfaithful. Data from focus-group discussions with men and women are examined in this report and highlight the strains on gender relations resulting from contraceptive use. The measures taken to address this problem and methods of minimizing the risk of adverse social consequences are discussed.