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Title:Solitary births in Téra, Niger: a local quest for safety
Author:Janssen, Gertie
Book title:Strength beyond structure: social and historical trajectories of agency in Africa
Geographic term:Niger
pregnancy rites
birth rites
Abstract:Silence and secrecy have always surrounded pregnancy and childbirth in Songhay villages in southwestern Niger and continue to do so today in spite of rapid socioeconomic developments and biomedical advances in health care. Songhay women in Téra district consider it important not to attract 'haawi' (shame), evil spirits or witchcraft on themselves, their child or their family. During pregnancy and delivery a woman and her baby are particularly vulnerable to such influences and for that reason women take special precautions. Keeping a pregnancy hidden as far as possible and delivering alone appear to be ways of achieving a 'safe passage', a survival strategy from preconception through to childbirth. This chapter looks at women's approaches to and ways of coping with pregnancy and childbirth in the village of Tondigoungo. It shows that the silence and secrecy surrounding pregnancy and birth are manifestations of the women's manoeuvring within a constrained social space. However, women consciously choose to adopt these practices which give them spiritual and social safety. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Book abstract, edited]