Women status and fertility in the Gambia
The Gambia has one of the highest fertility rates in West Africa. This is partly due to low status of women. This paper investigates the relationship between the status of women and the number of children ever born among Gambian married woman. The study used data from the Gambia Demographic and Health Survey, 2013. The analysis is confined to married women of reproductive age groups (15-49 years) and both bivariate (one-way ANOVA) and multivariate (Poisson regression) analyses were performed. The results from Poisson regressions indicated a strong negative relationship between improved status of women and children ever born. As status of women increases, the number of children ever born decreases. Other factors that are significantly related to fertility in the Gambia are age of the woman, age at first birth, age at first marriage, desired family size and type of marriage. It can be concluded that programs that aim to reduce fertility in the Gambia should focus on improving the status of women as well as strengthening reproductive health programmes. The study identified four major ways in which improved status of women can reduce fertility: Improved educational attainment of women and their spouses, improved wealth status of households through poverty reduction, improved access and use of modern contraceptives to delay age at first birth and birth intervals and delay in age at marriage. Patriarchal cultural practices such as polygamy, preference of high fertility, male child preference was found to be significantly related to fertility.
Keyword: Status of Women, Fertility, Ideal Family Size, Gender, Women Empowerment, Women Autonomy