This panel analyzes the role of African women in shaping notions of health in three African countries in the late 1900s and early 2000s. The papers examine women's roles in delivering public health and interactions between local notions of health and biomedicine, particularly in child birth.
This panel highlights how local African women have played significant roles in shaping and redefining notions of health at the local level in the late 20th and early 21st centuries in three different African countries - Gambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa. The three papers in the panel intersect with questions regarding women's roles in delivering public health and the interactions between local notions of health and healing and more global biomedicine, particularly in relation to fertility and child birth. Saho's paper examines how associations of infertile women in Gambia and the individual women that belong to them dealt with infertility by using "traditional" methods outside modern day hospitals and clinics. Hadfield analyzes how African nurses working in rural South Africa in the 1960s-1980s worked with rather than against local African beliefs about health and healing. Merten's paper examines the reception of cash transfers for birth-spacing in the DRC and Schneidermann's paper deals with the way women use technologies of pregnancy and childbirth to situate themselves in society. Together the papers reveal the critical actions of women who have shaped complex and varied approaches to public health in Africa.