Holiness and Hygiene in the Household: The Intersection of Religionand Gender in Influencing Water Sanitation Practices and HygieneBeliefs in Urban Accra, Ghana Público

Jain, Shivani (2011)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/44558f159?locale=es


As policymakers continue to promote new hygiene behavior interventions across Ghana to improve the country's poor water sanitation ranking, it will be important for them to address the roles that social factors such as gender and religion play in determining individuals' motivations for adopting hygiene standards and practices. Mary Douglas seeks to explain the social basis of hygiene by applying dirt-rejection theory, which posits that individuals within a social group use rituals to reject elements of "dirt" that do not fit with their social identity. Robert K. Merton develops the concept of ritual more broadly by applying functional analysis to delineate manifest and latent functions and dysfunctions which rituals can have within a social group. Furthermore, Merton's "Strain Theory" serves to systematically classify the types of social deviance people engage in to avoid following strong cultural norms. This study looks at how Douglas's theory of dirt-rejection and Merton's functional analysis of religion and social deviance typology apply to contemporary hygiene behaviors and water sanitation practices adopted in peri-urban and urban Accra, Ghana. Thirty-six in-depth interviews and twelve focus group discussions were conducted with a total of 118 heads of household in an effort to uncover the complex ways in which gender and religious identity converge to influence views on hygiene beliefs. During data collection, several themes of social deviance emerged, along with salient differences between Muslims and Christians and men and women on a broader scale. An unexpected finding was that Muslim men were the most conscious of the connection between holiness and cleanliness and most active in community water sanitation matters; however, women, irrespective of religious identity, were more likely to engage in hygiene promotion within the household. Although religion did play a large role in shaping individual adherence to cleanliness norms, socioeconomic status also greatly influenced this outcome. Overall, this study found that rather than serving only a latent function, religion serves the manifest and public function of promoting hygiene behaviors. In the context of a highly gendered social structure, religion can also serve the latent dysfunction of barring women from full participation in community water sanitation affairs.

Table of Contents


Background Information...6-13

Country Demographics...6-7

Water Sources and Sanitation Facilities in Accra...7-11

Health Impacts...11

Domestic Waste Disposal...11-12

Description of Study Sites...12-14

Theoretical Framework and Empirical Research...14-38

Émile Durkheim, Distinguishing the Sacred from the Profane...15-16

Mary Douglas: Defining Dirt, Taboo, and Purity...17-26

Opposing Views of Douglas's Theory...27-29

Robert K. Merton and Social Strain Theory...29-36

Gender Role Divisions...36-38

Research Questions...38-40


Research Design...40-43


Data Collection...45-51

Data Analysis...51-52


Connections between Holiness and Cleanliness...54-61

Connections within the Household...54-56

Connections within the Marketplace...56-59

Connections around Street Gutters...59-61

Understanding the Self in Terms of the Other...61-67

The Special Case of Muslim Men...67-73

Religion as Justification for Gendered Notions of Water Sanitation Roles...73-76

Social Deviance in Water Sanitation...76-87

The Conformist: It's Easy Being Clean...77-79

The Ritualist: Clean Without a Cause...79-80

The Innovator: Reinventing the Concepts of Dirt and Hygiene...80-84

The Retreater and the Rebel: I Can't Afford to Be Clean...84-86




Policy Implications...96-97

Limitations of Research...97-100

Future Areas of Research...100-102



Appendix 1: In-Depth Interview Guide...107-109

Appendix 2: Focus Group Discussion (FGD) Guide...110-112

Appendix 3: Survey Recruitment Tool...113-116

Appendix 4: Post Interview and Focus Group Discussion (FGD) Memo...117

Appendix 5: Coding Scheme for In-depth Interview and FGD...118-120

Appendix 6: Informed Consent Form for Survey Recruitment Tool...121-123

Appendix 7: Informed Consent Form for In-depth Interview...124-126

Appendix 8: Informed Consent Form for Focus Group Discussion...127-129

Appendix 9: Coded Record of Participants for Interviews and FGDs...130-134

Appendix 10: Map of Study Area...135

Appendix 11: Sanitation Facilities Used by Households in Accra (2005-2006)...136

Appendix 12: Institutional Structure of Ghana's WSS...137

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