Reproductive rights and citizenship : family planning in Zimbabwe
In this thesis, the relevance and practical value of discourses about reproductive rights to women living in a rural area of Zimbabwe are examined. Policy documents indicate that the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council's (ZNFPC's) community based distribution service is based on principles of respect for particular definitions of reproductive rights and, concomitantly, a degree of women's reproductive self determination. In contrast, recent analyses of post Independence government action suggest that, as citizens of Zimbabwe, women are generally defined as dependants of men. This raises questions about the impact of the context of women's citizenship on the interpretation and realisation of reproductive rights through the family planning programme. Field work data focuses on the interpretation of policy and the consequent practices of local level health workers as well as women's interactions with health workers and their implications for reproductive self determination within household relations. It is suggested that health workers' actions result in the differential realisation of reproductive rights for particular social groups. Health worker relations with clients, in turn, reinforce differences between women in terms of the extent to which they are able to exercise reproductive self-determination within household relations. State employed health workers, in effect, act as policemen of private reproductive decision making. The use of an analytical framework of rights and citizenship highlights the relatively neglected issue of the political system in which family planning programmes are embedded. It is argued that health worker accountability to village populations is as important as the content of policy in determining the realisation and practical value of discourses about reproductive rights to rural women.