Crystal Lynn Biruk
University of Pennsylvania



Just Say ‘NO!’ to widow inheritance: The intersection of traditional practice and public health interventions in Bondo district, Kenya

This paper explores the intersections of traditional practice and beliefs among the Luo community of western Kenya with trends in condom usage and perception of public health interventions centered on HIV prevention. It presents results from an exploratory analysis into whether public health interventions in Bondo, Kenya have been effective in changing behavior and impacting the perceptions of widows aged 18-49 in this region.
With the rapid spread of HIV infection, clinicians, laypersons and the media have begun to attribute the elevated HIV rates in the region to the practice of widow inheritance, calling for its eradication and maligning the Luo as backward for failing to cease practice of this dangerous custom. Thus, funding has been injected into projects in the region that aim to “empower” local women to forego inheritance, use condoms and raise incomes. The limited success of such strategies is examined in the context of three main research questions: First, what is the perception among local women of widow inheritance and its relationship to HIV? What are the implications of these perceptions on sexual behavior, social interactions, condom use and response to public health interventions? Finally, what factors act to motivate women in their decision making about inheritance, condom use and sexual behavior?

Africa Conference 2005: African Health and Illness
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