Nationalism, race, and gender: The politics of family planning in Zimbabwe, 1957-1990

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Summary: In line with a general tendency of nationalists to hold pro-natalist views, African nationalists in Zimbabwe took a hostile position to family planning upon its introduction in 1957, arguing that it was part of a conspiracy to control the black population. However, it was only after the unilateral declaration of independence in 1965 by the white settlers under Ian Smith that an official policy aimed at reducing African fertility emerged. The African nationalists waged a consistent propaganda campaign against this policy, and the facilities that were established under it, as well as their personnel, became military targets during the guerrilla war in the late 1970s.After independence in 1980, the triumphant nationalists tried to maintain their pronatalist position. But, with a postwar 'baby boom' pushing the birth rate close to four per cent by the mid-1980s, the officials in charge of economic and social development concluded that society could not sustain such a high fertility rate. Consequently, there was a reversal of policy, and by 1990 Zimbabwe had become an internationally recognized leader of family planning among developing countries. For the most part, however, these changes have taken place without any real input by African women, who remained largely excluded from the male-dominated circles in which decisions about family planning were made.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-471
Number of pages25
JournalSocial History of Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • History


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