Between a woman and her fetus: Bedouin women mediators advance the health of pregnant women and babies in their society

Rachel Sharaby, Hagit Peres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Bedouin women in Israel confront a challenging circumstance between their traditional patriarchal society and transition to modernity. In terms of reproductive health, they face grave disparities as women, pregnant women and mothers. In this article we aim to understand the challenges of Bedouin women who work as mediators in the promotion of Bedouin women’s perinatal health. We explore their challenges with the dual and often conflictual role as health peer-instructors-mediators in mother-and-child clinics, and also as members of a Bedouin community, embodying a status as women, mothers, and family caretakers. Drawn upon a feminist interpretative framework, the article describes their challenges in matters of perinatal health. Our research question is: how do women who traditionally suffer from blatant gender inequality utilize health-promotion work to navigate and empower themselves and other Bedouin women. Methods: Based on an interpretive feminist framework, we performed narrative analysis on eleven in-depth interviews with health mediators who worked in a project in the Negev area of Israel. The article qualitatively analyses the ways in which Bedouin women mediators narrate their challenging situations. Results: This article shows how difficult health mediators’ task may be for women with restricted education who struggle for autonomy and better social and maternal status. Through their praxis, women mediators develop a critical perspective without risking their commitments as women who are committed to their work as well as their society, communities, and families. These health mediators navigate their ways between the demands of their employer (the Israeli national mother and child health services) and their patriarchal Bedouin society. While avoiding open conflictual confrontations with both hegemonic powers, they also develop self-confidence and a critical and active approach. Conclusions: The article shows the ways by which the mediator’s activity involved in perinatal health-promotion may utilize modern perinatal medical knowledge to increase women’s awareness and autonomy over their pregnant bodies and their role as caregivers. We hope our results will be applicable for other women as well, especially for women who belong to other traditional and patriarchal societies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number190
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethics of care
  • Interpretive feminist inquiry
  • Narrative analysis
  • Reproductive/perinatal health promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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