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Global health anthropology
NRC-NORGLOBAL Research Project 2016-19

SAFEZT

Comprehensive sex education in schools and contextual gender discourses about adolescent fertility control and abortion in rural districts in Zambia

Post-doctoral project: Adolescents in Zambia face several SRH challenges such as pregnancies and unsafe abortion. These problems have been compounded by limited availability of and accessibility to adolescent friendly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services such as contraception. Limited availability of such services coupled with national discourses, cultural and religious beliefs about fertility control and abortion have negatively affected uptake of SRH services including safe abortion. In an attempt to increase uptake of SRH services, and reduce SRH challenges, the Ministry of Education in 2014 launched the Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) program in schools. Assessments of such programs in other countries have shown that the implementation and uptake of such programs have been complex.

While studies have been done in other countries to document factors that shape the acceptability of CSE programs in schools, there is limited knowledge on the role of gender discourses regarding fertility control and safe abortion in shaping the uptake of CSE. Specifically, for Zambia, since CSE is a new program, to the best of this researcher's knowledge, no comprehensive assessment has been done to explore the discourses that shape the acceptability of CSE.

This study therefore aims at contributing towards addressing this gap by understanding how the implementation of CSE in schools in Zambia is shaped by the contextual discourses regarding fertility control and safe abortion, with particular emphasis on gender.