Exploring Stress among Women in Léogâne, Haiti: An Application of the Theory of Gender and Power Restricted; Files & ToC

Mensa-Kwao, Augustina (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/xp68kg29t?locale=en


Background:Nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide have a mental disorder. Most of the people affected - 75% of them residing in low-income countries like Haiti - do not have access to the treatment they need. Globally,women have worse mental health (MH) outcomes due to gender specific risk factors that disproportionately affect them, such as gender-based violence, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank and unremitting responsibility for the care of others. Women’s lack of autonomy, decision-making power and access to income result in stringent limitations on their ability to exercise control over the determinants of their MH. Differential gender and power dynamics significantly contribute to women’s stress and MH; therefore, it is vital to understand male perspectives in order to develop effective strategies for addressing women’s MH issues and treatment. 


Purpose: Using the Theory of Gender and Power (TGP) framework, this study aims to explore Haitian men’s perceptions of gender expectations, power dynamics, and socio-cultural norms and values that may influence stressors experienced by women in rural Haiti.


Methods:Semistructured indepth interviews were conducted with twenty Haitian men, comprised of key informants (N=14), who were considered particularly knowledgeable about women’s experiences of daily stressors and its effects on physical and mental health, such as religious and community leaders, as well as laymen (N= 6). Participants were recruited by purposive and snowball sampling. Through qualitative data analysis, common inductive themes emerged pertaining to gender roles, autonomy, and decision-making.


Results: Qualitative analyses suggest that Haitian men have varied perspectives on how gender and power dynamics shape notions of autonomy for women in rural Haiti. Common themes centered on valuing women’s traditional roles in the community and expectations on women as partners. Additionally, participants varied in the degree to which they promoted notions of autonomy and equality for women and the degree to which decision-making was perceived as a shared task. Communication in relationships was often tied to men’s behaviors with handling problems, which often resulted in women experiencing stress. Sociocultural and economic context were reflected in men’s responses, such as using religion to justify differential power dynamics in decision-making, or gendered responsibilities often being focused on money in this setting of marked poverty.


Conclusion: This analysis suggests that TGP constructions are useful for understanding MH outcomes. Overall, findings were consistent with previous literature. Future potential interventions for Haitian women’s MH should incorporate an understanding of gender differences in responsibilities, roles, and support in the family as well as take into consideration the broader socio-cultural and economic context marked by poverty in Haiti.

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