Qualitative research was carried out in central Mali to inform the development of curricula for an intervention to improve young people's reproductive health. Both the young people and 'societal gatekeepers' (including religious leaders and traditional healers) perceived reproductive health to comprise the social dynamics in which reproductive health decision-making is embedded and not just the biological aspects of sexual relations and fertility. Their definitions of reproductive health reflected social taboos about pre-marital sex, infidelity and illegitimate children, and comprised holistic notions of bodily and spiritual cleanliness. It is argued that the 'Cairo' definition sees many of the social factors identified by respondents as comprising the context or background of reproductive health. The findings presented here indicate that local populations may see them as integral to the concept itself. It is discussed how the 'Cairo' definition of reproductive health needs to be made culturally specific in order to facilitate programme design and implementation.
African Journal of Reproductive Health (2002). 6 (1) 20-31