Women’s Health in Developing Countries

3500-104:
Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Berg
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 15:40
End: 16:55
Field Work: Day 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October | Ghana
Prerequisites: None Download Syllabus

This interdisciplinary course examines women’s health issues in developing countries in the
context of a woman’s life, from childhood, through adolescence, reproductive years, and
aging. The content will emphasize biological, political, economic, social, environmental, and
behavioral influences on health. By comparing a diversity of women’s health experiences
across cultures, the course will examine the ways in which culture influences health and
effective delivery of health care. A related topic that will be explored is the role the medical
research and international development communities in the western world plays in setting the
health care agenda for women in developing countries. Particular attention will be given to
important issues of women’s health in countries visited by SAS, including poverty, unequal
access to resources (education, food, health care), violence, maternal mortality, abortion,
sexually transmitted diseases, traditional practices such as female genital cutting, and sex
trafficking.

Field Work

Country: Ghana
Day: 4 - Accra - Friday, 18 October

The Field Lab will first visit the Ghana Association for Women’s Welfare. Established in 1984, its mission is to eradicate harmful traditional practices that affect the health and general well-being of women and girls, in particular female genital cutting (the cultural practice that involves partial or total removal or alteration of the external female genital organs for non-medical reasons). The organization supports legislation against the practice, but also believes that to eliminate FGC there must be a multi-dimensional approach that involves all stakeholders. During our time with the staff, we will learn about the history, work, successes and struggles of the association. They will discuss with us the situation of female genital cutting in Ghana—origin, prevalence, characteristics—and how their efforts to reduce the practice need to vary according to local contexts and target groups. The day will finish with a visit to the University of Ghana, where we will talk to a researcher who has done extensive work in the area of FGC. The discussion will allow opportunities to learn about the role of research to end FGC and problems encountered when researching such as sensitive topic. Academic Objectives:

  1. Gain insight into the history of FGC and other harmful traditional practices in Ghana.
  2. Analyze the current situation and future prospect regarding FGC in Ghana.
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of various initiatives to reduce the prevalence of FGC and other harmful traditional practices affecting the health of girls and women in Ghana and related areas.