Reproducing the Nation in Nkrumah's Ghana, 1951 – 1966
‘Population Change in Africa: Interdisciplinary Conversations’, a webinar series organised by the African Population History Network (APHiN) and hosted by the LSHTM Population Studies Group and the LSHTM Centre for History in Public Health
This webinar series is organised by the APHiN in bringing together demographers, historians, anthropologists and archaeologists to discuss and discover critical and historical perspectives on population change in Africa.
This paper unpacks discourses of population and development under Kwame Nkrumah's leadership in Ghana (1951-1966). It explores the diverse reactions of three groups of actors to the issue of population growth in Ghana: colonial officials, Ghanaian politicians and international population activists. Whilst there were diverse reactions to population growth, they consistently reduced women to their reproductive bodies and sought to solidify their roles as predominantly wives and mothers.
The Nkrumah government pushed back against rising global discourses of overpopulation to instead promote pronatalist policies. However, the paper shows that despite this, the growth of demography as a social science and the first attempts at systemised family planning were precursors to later policies which sought to limit population growth through regulating women's fertility.
Dr Holly Ashford recently completed her PhD at Cambridge University and researches women's reproductive health in Africa. Her upcoming book, 'Development and Women's Reproductive Health in Ghana, 1920 - 1982' shows the close relationship between discourses of development, population and health throughout the twentieth century in Ghana. The book argues that reproductive health measures in Ghana have rarely prioritised women's health and wellbeing per se but have been part of development planning to promote economic growth and social progress. She contextualises African women's experiences of pluralistic health systems within global histories of development, family planning and demography.
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