Zaheera Jinnah is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at the University of KwaZulu Natal, and a researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society, at Wits University. She holds an MA in development studies and a BA in social work. Her research interests and recent publications are in the field of gender and migration, and mobility, labour and livelihoods. Her doctoral thesis is an ethnographic study of the migration and settlement processes of Somali women in Johannesburg.
Entering sacred spaces: understanding the meanings of, and claims for, sexual and reproductive health rights amongst Somali women in Johannesburg.
International migration is associated with a disruption of social environments and social control. At the same time, the reproduction of cultural and social norms in the diaspora provides a space for the (re)negotiation of gender roles, rights, and practices. This paper explores the impact of mobility on the sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) of Somali women in Johannesburg. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this paper explores the social determinants of SRHR, the linkages between class and health, and argues that social and spatial environments condition the ways in which Somali women understand and claim SRHR. The paper adopts a broad definition of SRHR which asserts the right to achieve "the highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services”, family planning, safe sex, HIV/AIDS, and prevention of and protection from female genital mutilation (FGM). It shows that although the complex social and economic conditions and behaviour of Somalis in Johannesburg increases the likelihood of women not realising their SRHR, and the ability of migrants to claim rights through the pubic health care system is constrained; the ways in which Somali women relate to their bodies- and therefore understand their SRHR- is changing.