Male Involvement in Family Planning Empowers Women
Male involvement in family planning is not a new discovery to the field of public health, although often it is overlooked as a means of outreach. NPR highlights Nigeria’s struggle to involve men in family planning in its recent blog this week discussing the Society for Family Health’s mass media campaign targeted towards men and family planning. Though this program was seen as successful because men were more frequently accompanying their wives to the family planning clinic, there was skepticism whether women in Nigeria will use contraceptives and reduce the size of their families. A professor at Brown University, Daniel Smith, believes that Nigerians favor large extended families as a way to stay socially connected so it will be an uphill battle to reduce family size, even if there is an increase in contraceptive use.
In Jordan, USAID’s male involvement in family planning and reproductive health program found that after six years of implementing the program, men were more likely to include their wives in decision-making and a higher percentage of the population was accurately informed about the different contraceptive methods. Prior to the beginning of the project, the use of modern family planning methods was limited because of husband opposition and religious and health concerns. Many societies have a patriarchal structure and without the approval of men, women have very little choice in their contraception. In a study in Cambodia where there was a high level of knowledge and accessibility to contraceptives, women were more likely to use contraceptive if they perceived their husband’s approval and if they felt there was an ease of communication between them.
In other recent news, Ashley Judd, actress and activist, discussed the need for men to be active in family planning and their power in women’s reproductive health choices worldwide. Judd urged family planning programs in developing countries to involve men because of their significant influence over women’s reproductive health decisions. Male methods of contraceptives make up only 26% of contraceptive use globally: 12% withdrawal and abstinence, 7% vasectomy, and 7% condoms. Beyond men’s involvement in choosing to use male contraceptive methods of vasectomy or condoms, they should also be included in family planning discussions and counseling generally to encourage or facilitate a women’s contraceptive choice. Reproductive choices are imperative to a healthy pregnancy and healthy children. Involving men in these choices removes a common barrier to women’s use of family planning, which, in turn, empowers women and girls in all aspects of their lives.
In many parts of the world, gender equality is still in the very beginning phases. Using men as allies in the struggle for gender equality only advances progress and increases the likelihood of success for women’s rights and empowerment. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) supports many programs that encourage male involvement in family planning and other population-based programs around the world. Many of these projects use communication strategies to help educate men on reproductive health and family planning as well as promote sharing and joint-decision making among partners in terms of contraceptive choice and family planning. Through the efforts of the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) and Cultural Practice, LLC., K4Health is pleased to share the IGWG Gender and Health Toolkit, which includes practical, how-to resources and tools for integrating gender into health policies, programs, and institutions. Check the Technical Areas of Health tab for tools to help integrate gender into family planning and reproductive health programs. For more information on specific contraceptive methods, take a look at our Family Planning Methods Toolkits.
Rebecca Shore is a Communication Specialist at Knowledge for Health.
This blog is part of the new K4Health Blog Series, “Women of the World: Empowerment in Health and Development.”