Improving refugees' reproductive health through literacy in Guinea

Glob Public Health. 2006;1(3):229-48. doi: 10.1080/17441690600680002.


Adult literacy programmes, particularly literacy-for-health programmes that integrate health material in their curricula, are gaining momentum as a means to improve women's and children's health and increase women's empowerment. However, the relationship between literacy skills and these benefits remains unclear. This paper presents results from a study on the Reproductive Health Literacy (RHL) Project among Sierra Leonean and Liberian women in refugee camps in Guinea. Literacy classes met for 2 hours twice per week for 6 months, with content focused on safe motherhood, family planning, STIs/HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. A closed-ended interview and a written test of literacy skills were administered to 549 former RHL students to understand the programme's effects. Results indicate that participants had a high level of reproductive health knowledge after participation, and reported an increase in literacy skills. Respondents' current use of modern contraception was 48%, of which 23% reported using a condom at last sex. Findings suggest an increase from reported pre-RHL behaviour. Participants also reported a dramatic increase in 'boldness', the phrase used to describe empowerment. While only a third (32%) of respondents considered themselves 'more bold' than other women before RHL, a clear majority (82%) so considered themselves after RHL. A comparison of schooled and unschooled women indicates that those who had had previous schooling did better in RHL than their non-schooled colleagues, but both groups had good knowledge retention, positive behaviour levels and felt more bold after RHL participation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Collection
  • Developing Countries
  • Educational Status*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Guinea
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Refugees / education*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Sex Education / methods*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult