Hearing Native Voices: Contraceptive Use in Matemwe Village, East Africa

Jeremy Joseph Keele, Renata Forste, Dallan F. Flake


Although fertility declines have been documented in various parts of Africa, fertility rates remain high in Tanzania. Widespread resistance to modern contraception is one factor associated with high fertility in Tanzania. The aim of this study was to identify cultural barriers to modern contraceptive use in Matemwe village, Zanzibar. In May 2003, more than 50 in-depth interviews were conducted with community leaders, health care workers and couples in Matemwe. Despite free and easy access to contraceptives, only 2% of Matemwe women participated in the village's family planning programme. Several factors were found to influence contraceptive use, including strong Muslim beliefs, male dominance over females (especially in polygynous relationships), and limited exposure to modern ideas via education and travel. Interviews indicated that in order to lower fertility in Matemwe, cultural barriers to family planning must be confronted. Successful implementation of a family planning programme hinges on the ability of policymakers to integrate modern ideas about contraception with Matemwe's traditional religious and political culture. (Afr J Reprod Health 2005; 9[1]: 32-41)


Keywords: Contraception, fertility, barriers, tradition

Full Text:



Cohen B. The emerging fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa. World Development 1998; 26(8): 1431-1461.

Kirk D and Pillet B. Fertility levels, trends and differentials in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Stud Fam Plann 1998;

(1): 1-22.

Population Reference Bureau. 2001 World Population Data Sheet. Washington DC: Population Reference Bureau, 2001.

Black T. Impediments to effective fertility reduction. Br Med J 199(319): 932-933.

Dwyer JC and Haws JM. Is permanent contraception acceptable in sub-Saharan Africa? Stud Fam Plann 1990; 21(6): 322-326.

Margolis SP. Population policy, research and the Cairo plan of action: new directions for the Sahel? Inter Fam Plann Persp 1997;

(2): 86-89.

Benefo KD. Cultural perspectives on West African fertility change. In: Leete R (Ed.). Dynamics of Values in Fertility Change.

New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 331-342.

Cutrufelli RM. Women of Africa: Roots of Oppression. London: Zed Books, 1983.

Dodoo FN and van Landwijk P. Men, women and the fertility question in sub-Saharan Africa: an example from Ghana. Afri Stud Rev 1996; 39(3): 29-41.

Agadjanian V and Ezeh AC. Polygyny, gender relations, and reproduction in Ghana. J Compar Fam Stud 2000; 31(4): 427-441.

Kaler A. A threat to the nation and a threat to the men: the banning of Depo-Provera in Zimbabwe, 1981. J S Afr Stud 1998; 24(2): 347-376.

Zanzibar Ministry of Health. Mortality, Fertility and Contraception Study in Zanzibar. 1988.

Bhattacharyya K and Murray J. Community assessment and planning for maternal and child health programmes: a participatory approach in Ethiopia. Hum Org 2000; 59(2): 255-267.

Warwick DP. The Indonesian family planning program: government influence and client choice, Pop Dev Rev 1986; 12(3): 453-

Cammack M and Heaton TB. Regional variation in acceptance of Indonesia's family planning program. Pop Res Policy Rev (forthcoming).

Hull TH and Hull VJ. Health care and birth control in Indonesia: links through time. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, San Francisco, 1986.

Mudzhar MA. Rulings of the Indonesian Council of Religious Scholars: A Study on Islamic Thinking in Indonesia, 1975-1988.

Jakarta: Indonesia-Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies, 1993.


  • There are currently no refbacks.