“Am nañu ligeey:” Cultural acceptability and behavior change theory in Senegalese sensibilisation programs
Turke, Shani Rose
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A review of select Senegalese health statistics may portray an encouraging reality compared to other countries in West Africa. Life expectancy at birth is higher in Senegal than in other West African countries, and HIV prevalence is low. Further investigation, however, reveals significant reproductive health concerns, particularly for unmarried youth. Urbanization has changed sexual behaviors, while stigmas surrounding sex continue to create barriers to education. Reproductive health education programs have established culturally appropriate education programs to improve health. This research investigates two such programs in Dakar, l’Association pour le Bien-Etre Familial, and l’Association des Femmes de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (AFAO). Through observation and interviews with program organizers, this research found that ASBEF and AFAO programs address reproductive health concerns for youth and women while taking into account cultural mores. This study also demonstrated that sensibilisation programs mirror elements of the Health Belief Model and Ecological Systems Theory. However, gender inequality is multidimensional, and these programs do not sufficiently address the inequality that limits women’s preventative strategies. While behavior change theory has been extensively applied in analyzing health programs, few studies simultaneously investigate culture’s role. This research sheds light on how organizations targeting reproductive health in Senegal create effective education programming by taking into consideration cultural structures. Further research is needed to better understand how similar sensibilisation programs in Dakar and throughout Senegal operate to improve reproductive health.