The effectiveness of indigenous knowledge in the prevention and treatment of infertility in a rural community of Limpopo Province: A social work perspective

  • Jabulani C. Makhubele


Background: Indigenous populations seek to attain autonomy and self-determination through the preservation, protection and revitalisation of their indigenous knowledge which has been eroded by colonization, Western culture and more recently, globalization. Indigenous knowledge systems refer to the unique, traditional, local knowledge existing within a particular environment and developed around the specific conditions of people indigenous to a particular geographical area. Sexual and Reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being, and not just the absence of reproductive disease or infirmity. Sexual and Reproductive health deals with the reproductive processes, functions and systems at all developmental stages of life.

Aim: The main aim of the study was to explore and describe the role of indigenous knowledge towards sexual and reproductive health and rights. The study was aimed specifically at describing indigenous methods (practices) and values used in the prevention and preservation of sexual and reproductive health. This study targeted older persons who are regarded as indigenous knowledge custodians and practitioners from a rural community in the Limpopo Province.

Methods: For the purpose of this study, contextual design, incorporating qualitative methodology, was considered appropriate and therefore, selected for exploring and describing indigenous knowledge relevant to sexual and reproductive health and rights in a rural area. The study incorporated purposive sampling in which three focus groups were conducted with older persons aged between 65 – 80 years.

Results: Sexual and reproductive health, with special reference to menstruation and fertility, have over the years been taken care of and addressed by and through application of indigenous knowledge amongst the rural people over the years. During the menstrual and mourning periods, women are allowed to have their periods uninterrupted for 7 days and 3 months respectively by men having sex.

Conclusions: Since time immemorial, African people have been successfully preventing and treating their sexual and reproductive health through indigenous knowledge successfully. Faced with the globalizing forces which promote universal approaches to knowledge and understanding, indigenous peoples have reacted by alternately seeking to re-discover ancient wisdoms as foundational directives for the future. It could be asserted that indigenous knowledge should be revisited in instances where global knowledge seems to fail to address challenges affecting people.


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