W. A. Gazali
.,: Continental J. Tropical Medicine 6 (1): 12 - 21, 2012women under utilize maternal health care services due to their poverty, illiteracy, general backwardness andadherence to superstitious belief concerning illness and diseases.i, Early marriage and pregnancyEarly marriage is an act of giving young girls below maturity age in marriage. This practice is more common inthe northern part of the country where girls are married off before they are physically and psychologicallymature to manage motherhood. The age at which childbearing begins influences the number of children awoman bears throughout her reproductive life. Similarly, early childbearing, particularly among teenagers (thoseunder 20 years of age) has negative demographic, socio-economic, and socio-cultural consequences. Teenagemothers are more likely to suffer from severe complications during delivery, which result in higher morbidityand mortality for both themselves and their children. (NDHS 2003)Iman (1969), Cohen (1967), Gazali, (1996), and Waziri (2004), all revealed that, Kanuri girls are married off attender age because it is culturally believed that girls ‘decay’ (
, and unpleasant remarks may bemade about the parents in the community. A girl who does not have a marriage proposal at an early age is called
, meaning she has no intrinsic value for suitors. In some extreme cases she may be mocked, abused orgenerally looked down upon by the members of her family and the locality in general.Though it exposes women to many health problems like cephalopelvic disproportion, obstructed labour, vesicovaginal fistulae (VVF), etc, the number of children that a woman bears is an important aspect of most the of people in the study areas. Meaning high birth rate and large family size is a cherished cultural practice.Similarly, the traditional view (cultural value) that a girl should be married off as soon as she reaches pubertyremains strongly entrenched among majority of the people of the state at large and the areas of study inparticular (Gazali 2004 and 2005, Waziri 2004 and 2008).ii Polygyny:This is one of the cultural practices underlying various facets of reproductive health, with implications for safemotherhood. Polygyny is a common cultural practice among the Muslims of Northern Nigeria, and according toNDHS 2008, 46% of married women are in polygynous unions. Some of its implications are frequency of exposure to sexual activity and fertility. Other consequences of polygyny are intense competition among co-wives to fulfil the reproductive expectations of their husbands and his family. The number of children to whichthey give birth (in particular male children) affects the esteem and value placed on the woman in the householdand may also directly determine the size of her monthly allowance. Hence, large numbers of children and thecompetition among co-wives for a share of limited resources and emotional support from the husband haveserious implications on safe motherhood.iii, Large Family Size:This relates to the perception of women’s fundamental role, which is childbearing and child-rearing. Thesecultural values are shared by both men and women, although it is interesting to note that among westerneducated/ working class women they desire fewer children than their male partners, doubtless because they haveother aspirations and are more conscious of the burden of reproduction and child care. Recent studies inNorthern Nigeria suggest that it is often men rather than women who make the decision to have more children,that is, men’s views are more influential than women’s views in making family decisions (WHO1996, and SafeMotherhood).Similar findings were revealed by studies among some of the major ethnic groups in Borno State by Gazali,(1996), Waziri, (2004) and among the Hausa of Kano state by Adamu (2001) in Kano. In their studies theyindicated that men, because of their position in a patriarchal society, make it difficult for the women to regulateand control birth rate or in short adopt family planning without the consent of their husbands who usuallyoppose the idea. For instance, among some of the major ethnic groups in Borno state, particularly the Kanuri,Shuwa and Ba’aru, large family symbolise higher status for members of the family. Politically, it makes thefamily more relevant and religiously, it gives them the satisfaction of fulfilling an obligation – to marry andreproduce, so that the
(followers of Prophet Mohammed PBUH) will increase (Gazali, 1996 and Waziri2004).