Engaging Men and Boys in Family Planning

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    LGHI team

    LGHI's Rural Contraceptive Access Campaign did strategic family planning advocacy work among men and boys in Nigeria's Moro community. Photo: LGHI

    As part of the implementation of the World Contraception Day Ambassadors project and 120 Under 40 award grants, my organization, Lighthouse Global Health Initiative (LGHI), is pleased to undertake the second phase of our Rural Contraceptive Access Campaign (RCAC). In Phase I of the project, we learned about the important role of male involvement in family planning and reproductive health in rural areas in Nigeria. In Phase II, we want to do more to promote male involvement and support for family planning uptake through targeted advocacy and data-capturing activities related to knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and practices of rural boys and men.

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    Male students take part in the sexual and reproductive health programme at Townside Secondary School, Busembatia.

    Male students take part in the sexual and reproductive health programme at Townside Secondary School, Busembatia. Photo: Noraly Schiet, 2017

    In Eastern Uganda, when a teenage girl becomes pregnant, she will stop attending school and instead, begin a life rearing children and looking after the family home and land. Teenage pregnancy remains high in Uganda, where more than one-third of girls give birth before the age of 18. Predictably, this is higher in rural areas. As well as teenage pregnancy, women and girls here face many sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges throughout their lives, including sex in exchange for “necessities,” poor menstrual hygiene, and a lack of access to family planning methods. This is why teaching and empowering girls from a young age about sexual and reproductive health and rights is a must. As part of the small grassroots organisation Women in Leadership (WIL) Uganda, based in Busembatia, for the last three months I have been doing just that across a number of schools.

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    Programming Along the Life Course: Men and Boys as Family Planning Users

    A father in Santiniketan, India teases his son by placing flowers in his hair. © 2015 Pijush Chakraborty, Courtesy of Photoshare

    On March 1, 2017, USAID, K4Health, and the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) hosted "Programming Along the Life Course: Men and Boys as Family Planning Users" to discuss the role of men and boys in family planning projects. If you missed the webinar, you can view the full recording and review a list of relevant resources discussed.

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    When given the option, plenty of men choose vasectomy for their family planning method.

    When given the option, plenty of men choose vasectomy for their family planning method. © Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

    Twelve years ago, I sat in a waiting room in a small clinic on the outskirts of Byumba, Rwanda, and listened as one man after another stood up and asked the nurse at the front of the room what methods of family planning they could use, as men. The nurse had just completed a presentation of different family planning methods, and these men were hungry for an option besides condoms, the only male method available at that facility. It was powerful and moving to witness men who wanted to directly engage in family planning, not just as supportive partners, but as users themselves.

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    This post originally appeared on The Exchange.

    Easmon Otupiri Will Tell You

    K4Health and FP2020 have been working hard to document and share the stories of individuals working around the world to improve access to family planning via the global Family Planning Voices initiative. Some of the people we’ve sat down with, like Easmon Otupiri, the Principal Investigator for the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) Project in Ghana, are natural storytellers. Here’s one memory he shared with us when we met him at the 2016 International Conference on Family Planning.

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    We love the love letters to contraception EngenderHealth shared through their WTFP?! campaign. Their clever Valentines inspired us to write our own love letters to contraception!

    Dear Vasectomy,

    I've seen you from afar and have always found you attractive! I know that we are not right for each other now, but hope we can meet in the future when I'm ready.

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    Chum Dam, a 41-year-old Cambodian father, sits in an assessment room prior to his vasectomy procedure. © 2015 Marie Stopes International, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Chum Dam, a 41-year-old Cambodian father, sits in an assessment room prior to his vasectomy procedure. © 2015 Marie Stopes International, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Family jewels, balls, baby-makers, nuts, rocks, beanbags, huevos. In the United States, this is a classic undergraduate Women’s Studies 101 exercise: Brainstorm as many slang words as you can for men’s genitals, do the same for women, and compare. Inevitably far more slang words exist for men’s parts than for women’s, and the words are less insulting, more affectionate, and less violent. Many of these men’s terms are downright complimentary: It is common for a woman to be told that she “has some serious balls” if she accomplishes something impressive, or that a bold decision was “ballsy.”

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    A couple in Kenya meets with a health worker

    A couple in Kenya meets with a health worker. Although overall modern contraceptive use is rising markedly, vasectomy remains marginalized and essentially unavailable in most low-income countries. Photo by Trevor Snapp/IntraHealth International

    This post originally appeared on Devex.

    Increasing access to vasectomy isn’t easy or a quick fix in low-income countries, but investing in it is the right thing to do.

    Vasectomy is not only a highly effective contraceptive option for men, it also changes the conversation around family planning from a women’s issue to a couples’ issue. And across the world, we see that higher vasectomy rates come hand in hand with greater gender equity and higher socio-economic development.

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    When Men Change video still

    Animation still from Promundo's When Men Change video.

    Unfulfilled sexual and reproductive health needs around the world continue to endanger women’s and men’s health, and they pose major barriers to achieving gender equality. Every day, over one million people contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI). In fact, sexual and reproductive health conditions represent 14% of the global burden of disease—a number that has shifted little over the past two decades.

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    “To be frank, I was going through a process when my wife was pregnant. A process of finding the true meaning of being a father.”

    –Father, Indonesia

    The old trope of a man nervously pacing the hospital’s waiting area, wringing his hands, while his wife labors in a private back room is reserved for old movies and nostalgia, right? That may not be true, according to State of the World’s Fathers, the world’s first report to provide a global view of the state of men’s contributions to parenting and caregiving.

    Even before the delivery room, some men are missing out on the chance to be involved. While more than 80% of fathers in Cambodia, the Maldives and Rwanda were present at a pre-natal check up for their youngest child, less than 20% of fathers in Burundi, Pakistan and Zambia made the trip. Traditional expectations of what it means to be a man – and a woman – alongside sometimes unsupportive, or unprepared health systems and restrictive policies, set up barriers to men’s full participation in maternal, newborn and child health.

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