The fertile grounds of reproductive activism in The Gambia: A qualitative study of local key stakeholders' understandings and heterogeneous actions related to infertility

Susan Dierickx, Gily Coene, Megan Evans, Julie Balen, Chia Longman

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


INTRODUCTION: While several studies have focussed on the experiences of women living with infertility, there is a paucity of information related to understandings, representations and actions of key stakeholders (i.e. organisations and individual actors involved in activities or professional care surrounding infertility) when it comes to infertility in Sub-Saharan Africa. This ethnographic study conducted in The Gambia, West Africa, focuses on how key stakeholders in the country understand infertility, and on their activities to improve the lives of people with infertility.

METHODOLOGY: This ethnographic study draws on primary and secondary data for thematic analysis. Primary qualitative data were collected using in-depth interviews, observations, informal conversations and group discussion with various stakeholders (i.e. health care providers and representatives of non-governmental, governmental and international organisations). Sources of secondary data included government and non-governmental reports and media outputs.

RESULTS: Results illustrated that most key stakeholders had a good understanding of the cultural frameworks and social realities of women living with infertility, with less focus on, or awareness of, men's experiences of infertility. We distinguished three different positions of these actors and organisations, first, the infertility supporters, i.e. those who despite political challenges and a lack of funding, initiated activities to raise awareness about the problems people with infertility are facing and aim to increase access to infertility services. The second are moderate supporters, i.e. those who recognise the problems infertility poses and whose organisations target some of the perceived causes of infertility (i.e. lack of health education and harmful cultural practices). A third group of neutral or moderate opponents consist mainly of formal health care providers who do not consider infertility a current priority, given many competing demands in the resource-constrained healthcare system.

CONCLUSION: While international donors still largely neglect the emotional and social implications of infertility in Sub-Saharan African countries, some local stakeholders are working to bring services closer to people with infertility. The efforts of these local stakeholders require support and integration, and should include engaging with different groups for widespread sensitisation to reduce stigma and promote attendance to health centres for reproductive health challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0226079
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Female
  • Gambia
  • Health Personnel/psychology
  • Humans
  • Infertility/pathology
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research


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