'With the kanyaleng and the help of god, you don't feel ashamed': women experiencing infertility in Casamance, Senegal

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While the precarious situation of women with infertility in Sub-Saharan Africa is well documented, little is known about the ways in which such women show agency despite the challenges that infertility brings to their lives. This study provided a holistic understanding of the experiences of women with infertility living in a rural community in Casamance (Senegal), drawing attention towards both suffering as well as agency. Qualitative research methods were used, triangulating life-story interviews, participant observation and informal conversations. Findings showed that all women with infertility experienced emotional challenges. These emotional challenges were intertwined with social stigmatisation and troubled relationships with their families-in-law and within their marriages. However, women with infertility were not passive victims in these circumstances. The study identified several strategies used by women to cope with the challenges of infertility, including organising in kanyaleng groups, treatment seeking, fosterage, looking for religious and social support, becoming (financially) independent, avoidance and ignorance. These findings highlight the complexity of agency within a context of structural violence. Concrete measures to improve the lives of women with infertility should acknowledge the agency of women with infertility and involve such women while developing multi-component approaches addressing inequalities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture, Health & Sexuality
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)268-283
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female/psychology
  • Marriage
  • Senegal


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