Journal of the European Society for Gynaecological Endoscopy


The social and cultural meanings of infertility for men and women in Zambia: legacy, family and divine intervention

S. Howe 1, J.M. Zulu 2, J. Boivin 3, T. Gerrits 1

1 Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, Postbus 15509, 1001 NA Amsterdam, the Netherlands;
2 School of Public Health, University of Zambia (Ridgeway Campus), P.O Box 50110, Lusaka, Zambia;
3 School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom CF10 3AT.


infertility, Africa, quality of life, culture, gender, death

Published online: Oct 09 2020


Despite the high prevalence of infertility within the sub-Saharan sterility belt, infertility in Zambia is understudied, particularly from a social perspective. Furthermore, few studies in sub-Saharan Africa include the infertility experiences of men. This article seeks to fill this gap by qualitatively describing the ways in which infertility in Zambia is socially and culturally loaded for both men and women. Demonstrating fertility is necessary to be considered a full adult, a real man or woman, and to leave a legacy after death. People in Zambia, including medical professionals, currently lack the necessary information and access to (or ability to provide) care to effectively resolve fertility issues. Infertile people manage their experience through a variety of social, emotional, spiritual, and medical strategies. However, no solution is considered adequate unless the intervention results in childbirth. In this way, infertility is about producing babies and the social meaning of that process, rather than the raising of children.