Centre for International Health
NRC-NORGLOBAL Research Project 2016-19


Competing discourses impacting girls’ and women’s rights: Fertility control and safe abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania

Girls and childbearing Africa
02Marzo2010 Flickr via Compfight cc

Main content

This three-year project located at the Centre for International Health, Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen,examines global and national policy discourses surrounding fertility control and abortion, and local practices and moralities related to these issues among adolescents in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania. Fertility control and safe abortion demonstrate the controversies over sexual and reproductive health policies and the gendered socio-cultural and religious norms impeding progress on girls and women’s rights.

The project consists of three interlinked components: Component A explores the main normative messages underpinning global policies and the campaigns of global civil society actors in the field of fertility control and safe abortion, and how these global normative messages are reflected in national policies. Component B investigates how national public discourse surrounding fertility control and abortion in media, religious organizations and court rooms intersect with national policy and with grassroots discourse on sexuality, motherhood and the status of the foetus. Component C explores how adolescent girls manoeuvre between moral obligations embedded in socio-cultural and religious norms, restrictions/liberalisation in their country’s abortion law, and their own needs for fertility control. It also identifies how masculinities play out in the reproductive arena in general and on abortion in particular.

Our contention is that the gendered socio-cultural dynamics, which sexual and reproductive health policies enter into, play out differently in the three countries. Diverging laws, policies and differing access to fertility control and safe abortion services make this an interesting case for comparison with relevance beyond the study contexts.

Primary objective:

  • To generate knowledge on the interplay between policy, legislation and socio-cultural conditions to enhance our understanding of girls' and women's reproductive rights with a focus on fertility control and unsafe abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania.

Secondary objectives:

  • Investigate contradictory moral and policy discourses on girls’ and women’s sexual and reproductive rights at global and national levels.
  • Generate comparative knowledge of the interplay between policy, legislation and socio-cultural conditions framing girls and women’s reproductive choices.
  • Explore adolescent girls’ struggles and agency to handle their fertility within the given legal, socio-economic and religious frames.
  • Examine men’s involvement in the reproductive arena with particular emphasis on the power dynamics between men and women pertaining to fertility control and abortion.