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THE INFLUENCE OF FUNCTIONAL LITERACY ON WOMEN REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH PRACTICES
The study assessed the influence of functional literacy on women reproductive health practices in Lagos Mainland Local Government Area of Lagos State. The purpose is to establish the link between educational status and improvement of the girls and women reproductive health, to examine the girls’ and women’s knowledge about their reproductive health, assess the content and adequacy of female functional literacy for health projects in Lagos Mainland. And determine if participant’s occupation would affect their performance in the female functional literacy for health issues and to ascertain whether participants in the female literacy for health issues have better control in their reproductive life than when they were not. Five hypotheses were tested for the study. The research design was survey in nature. The questionnaire was developed for data collection. The total numbers of 150 respondents were selected through the stratified random sampling method. Findings of this study reveal that there is a significant impact of education status on reproductive health, Also information and content of female functional literacy for health issues about reproductive health yielded positive results. Further, it was noted that participant’s occupation has significant effect on performance and attendance to literacy programmes. The result also indicates that there is a difference between the way the girls and women manage their reproductive health when they participate in literacy programme than when they do not .On the basis of this findings, these recommendations were made: Literacy education for the girls and women must be promoted. There is therefore need for federal, state and local government to involve more women to participate in functional literacy for health issues and other socio- economic matters, more awareness should be intensified to acquaint women with what constitute their reproductive health issues. Facilitators to female functional literacy need to be aware of the principles of adult learning in order to enhance the effectiveness of programme delivery, participants in literacy programmes should be motivated to promote their interest, attitude and ability to fully engage in the learning activities and finally, women should be empowered financially for better performance in literacy programmes for health and other related issues.
Background to the Study
According to Anyanwu (1992), literacy education generally is seen as a part of the process, by which ignorant or non-literate persons become aware of their personal situation and learn to do something about improving it. In the process, it becomes a means of achieving political, economic, social and cultural upliftment and human rights. This will enable the people who acquire literacy to play remarkable roles in making their world a better place to live in. As a concept, literacy has many dimensions and its meaning varies according to context (Bakare, 2004). Literacy is now seen more in terms of whatever is required for one to be functionally competent, which may also involve the possession of certain basic skills. This is the idea behind functional literacy. A functionally literate person by UNESCO (1978) conception is one who is able to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning of his group and community. In line with UNESCO’s definition, Egenti (2005) sees functional literacy as that aspect of education which enables an individual to perform his role in society. That is, it is an exercise in literacy education which is integrated with development and one which becomes, from its very nature a constituent part of a development plan. Literacy, therefore, is an indispensable strategy for empowering the girls, women and men. In essence, it is seen as a part of the way of improving a better quality of life. This is because it has the potency to fight ignorance, poverty, diseases, disillusionment and abandonment which are obstacles to self- fulfillment of an individual.
It is instructive to note that high levels of illiteracy among the girls and women are closely linked to poor health status in the family (Udeani, 2004). This is why the Federal Ministry of Health conferred with the World Health Organization in 1987 to initiate the female functional literacy for health projects in Benue and Niger States. Literacy and Numeracy Lessons were organized around several health issues such as nutrition, child care, personal and environmental health, reproductive health, combined with health improvement activities for mothers. The development of primers in Tiv and Nupe languages were used to achieve the project objectives of literacy, health and income generation as they were the medium for three component messages. The remarkable improvement in the total quality of life project participants in the two states gave the project implementers at the Federal, State and Local Government levels the encouragement and confidence to call for the national replication of the project. The primers are now written in English and translated into three major languages of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba to make them more relevant to a wider audience.
However, the importance of functional literacy for girls and women reproductive health control can not be underscored. Evidences abound in literature on handsome rewards of functional literacy in promoting the girls and women reproductive health practices. Udeani (2004) posits that literacy is a key factor influencing women reproductive health. In other words, reproductive health practices may depend on level of education. This is why Njelesani, E.K. the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative for Nigeria said, ‘Education kills the disease of ignorance, superstitions, fear and poverty. In addition, Egenti (2005), citing Malniguist (1970) notes that ‘if we want to conquer poverty, hunger and disease in the world, we have to conquer illiteracy first. It is the most serious handicap for economic, social, political and individual development that we know’. There is therefore a strong case for suggesting that functional literacy can provide the girls and women knowledge about their sexuality, family planning, and other reproductive health issues.
In literature, reproductive health implies a state of complete physical, mental and social well- being / fitness and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. Owanasonye (1999) posits that the reproductive life of a woman starts from her age at menarche (age at which she starts menstruating). At the onset, she must be made to acquaint herself with her reproductive health through some mapped out education programme.
Most undeniably, women in Nigeria, including Lagos Mainland reproductive health’s affect and are affected by the broader context of their lives, including their economic circumstances, education, employment, living conditions and family environment, social and gender relationships, and the traditional and legal structures within which they live. As noted by Owanasonye (1999), sexual and reproductive behaviours are governed by complex biological, cultural and psychosocial factors. Therefore, the attainment of reproductive health is not limited to interventions by the health sector alone. According to Wikipedia Contributors (2012), most reproductive health problems cannot be significantly addressed in the absence of health services and medical knowledge and skills. The status of girls and women in society, and how they are treated or mistreated, is a crucial determinant of their reproductive health. Educational opportunities for girls and women powerfully affect their status and the control they have over their own lives and their health and fertility. The empowerment of women is therefore an essential element for health.
Undeniably, women bear by far the greatest burden of reproductive health problems. Women are at risk of complications from pregnancy and childbirth; they also face risks in preventing unwanted pregnancy, suffer the complications of unsafe abortion, bear most of the burden of contraception, and are more exposed to contracting, and suffering the complications of reproductive tract infections, particularly sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Statistics show that among women of reproductive age, 36% of all healthy years of life lost are due to reproductive health problems such as unregulated fertility, maternal mortality and morbidity and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. By contrast, the equivalent figure for men is 12 % (United Nations Population Network, 2012). Biological factors alone do not explain women's disparate burden. Their social, economic and political disadvantages have a detrimental impact on their reproductive health. Young people of both sexes are also particularly vulnerable to reproductive health problems because of a lack of information and access to services ( Ransome-Kuti, 2001). Given this situation, the study seeks to examine the influence of functional literacy on women reproductive health practices in Lagos Mainland Local Government Area where research study appears to be scanty on the subject of study.
Statement of the Problem
Girls and women face health problems related to their reproductive role, inferior social status, and lack of education and access to information. Consequently, they are often poorly informed about their sexuality, and become vulnerable to such problems as unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. Although, the Federal Ministry of Health conferred with the World Health Organisation in 1987 to initiate the female functional literacy for health projects in Nigeria, yet statistics show that 50 per cent of maternal deaths are young adult women due to illegal abortions, abortion complication account for 72 per cent of all deaths among young adult women under the age of 19 years. Report also indicates that some 8 million children around the world have lost their mothers to HIV/AIDs (Ransome –Kuti, 2001). The fore going provide the basis for examining the influence of functional literacy on women reproductive health practices and how this functional literacy can help alleviate to problem of reproductive health behavior.
Purpose of the Study
Generally, the objective of the study is to examine the influence of functional literacy on women reproductive health practices. However, this study will:
1. Establish the relationship between educational status and improvement of the girls and women reproductive health.
2. Examine the girls’ and women’s knowledge about their reproductive health.
3. Assess the content and adequacy of female functional literacy for heath projects in Lagos Mainland.
4. Determine if participants’ occupation would affect their performance in the female functional literacy for health issues.
5. Ascertain whether participants in the female functional literacy for health issues have better control in their reproductive life than when they were not.
The following questions are raised to guide the study
1. Does educational status of the girls and women have positive influence in promoting their reproductive life?
2. Do the girls and women have knowledge of their reproductive health?
3. How relevant and effective is the female functional literacy for health programmes in Lagos Mainland?
4. What influence does participants’ occupation have in their performance in female functional literacy for health issues?
5. Will the girls and women who participate in functional literacy for health issues have control in their sexual lives than when they were not?
The null hypotheses predicted and tested for the study are as follows:
1. The level of education of the girls and women will not have significant positive effect in promoting their reproductive health.
2. The type of information available to the girls and women does not have significant effect on their reproductive heath practices.
3. The content of the female functional literacy for health programmes does not have significant positive effect in promoting their sexuality.
4. Participants’ occupation does not have significant effect on their level of performance in female functional literacy for health programmes.
5. Participants in female functional literacy for health will not be capable of having satisfying and safe sex.
Significance of the Study
The study is relevant in the true sense that it will promote the girls and women reproductive health. It has identified the place of female functional literacy for health issues and documents the present health improvement activities for the girls and women in Lagos Mainland Local Government Area. The study will help non- literate women population in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos State with the skills (cognitive and occupational) necessary for maintaining a safe sex life. It will assist policy makers and instructors/ facilitators to have a deeper insight into more practical methods of organizing female functional literacy for health projects. It will help government at all levels to promote literacy education whether for the child or adults because of its importance to the recipients’ lives. This study will also be a good reference material for the governments at all levels, more especially the Lagos State Government to utilize in identifying and promoting reproductive health of youth, women and men living in the state. The girls and women in the state will have to benefit from the study because it will serve as a mechanism of promoting their reproductive health. This study will further enhance participants’ capability to acquire or increase their literacy skill of reading, writing and numeracy. It will also add literature to the existing field of adult education.
Scope of the Study
The interest of this study is to assess the influence of functional literacy on women reproductive health practices specifically in Lagos Mainland Local Government Area. The study covers 150 girls and women who participated or are still participating in functional literacy for health programmes. Also time and material pose some constraints.
Operational Definitions of Terms
The following terms are operationally defined.
Literacy: Ability to read, write in any language and to manipulate figures.
Functional Literacy: Using the literacy skills for ones’ occupation and environment.
Education: Building a self conscious human being.
Adult Education: Educational activities that are developed to meet the educational needs of adults.
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