Durham University

Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Kate Hampshire

Hampshire, K. (2002). Networks of nomads: negotiating access to health resources among pastoralist women in Chad. Social Science & Medicine 54(7): 1025-1037.

Author(s) from Durham


Health resources among pastoralist groups are strongly gendered. While certain types of health resources fall within the female domain (home-based treatment, caring and supportive roles, and knowledge surrounding particular reproductive conditions), access to most outside health practitioners, treatments and knowledge is controlled largely by men. For pastoralist women, this means that actions taken during illness episodes depend largely on the nature and quality of social support systems available, and on their ability to mobilise them effectively. These support systems include husband and other affines, male kin, and networks of female kin and friends. Factors such as position within domestic and wider social units, as well as life cycle, affect women's ability to access and mobilise these different support systems for their health needs. However, seasonal mobility interacts with gender and social support systems in complex ways that profoundly influence women's access to health resources. Most literature on nomadic peoples and health focuses on the physical barriers posed by spatial mobility to accessing health resources. However, it is suggested here that, for pastoralist women in Chad, the spatial fluidity of social networks might be a more important consideration. At certain times of the year women enjoy relatively easy access to a large range of extended kin and other social contacts, while at other times, when people are very dispersed, options become much more limited, often resulting in illness treatment being delayed. Mobility should not, though, be seen purely as a constraint. It can also be an opportunity, increasing the potential geographical and social resource base with regard to health for women.