Men as Users: Highlighting FP Engagement Strategies for Men and Boys

Engaging Men and Boys in Family Planning

Lyndsey Mitchum

CCP | Program Coordinator
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.

The following presenters shared their experiences:

  • Tim Shand, Deputy Director, PASSAGES PROJECT, Georgetown University, Institute of Reproductive Health (IRH)
  • Dominick Shattuck, Senior Research Officer, Georgetown University, Institute of Reproductive Health (IRH)
  • Tom Ellum, Outreach Channel Director, Marie Stopes International (MSI)

All the speakers highlighted the importance of tackling gender norms and inequities that act as barriers to men and boys’ use of contraception. They also identified specific objectives:

  • Describe the evolving reproductive health needs of boys and men as contraceptive users at different stages along the reproductive life course
  • Examine the gender dimensions of programming for boys and men as FP users along the life course, including through both social and behavior change and service delivery approaches
  • Provide a snapshot of interventions that use various approaches to engage boys and men as family planning users and highlight how gender dynamics were addressed in programming
  • Encourage a stronger focus on men and boys as FP users, as part of as part of comprehensive approaches to increase modern contraceptive prevalence rates within countries

Gender Dimensions of programming for men and boys as FP users: Tim Shand gave an overview of what we understand by the phrase “men as users” and of how gender dynamics and masculinities impact boys and men’s capacity to act as FP users at different life stages.

GrowUp Smart: Demystifying the link between menstruation, fertility and sexuality: Dominick Shattuck showcased IRH’s work to provide young adolescent boys in Rwanda with fertility education and age-appropriate safety and risk-reduction skills in order to shape future healthy sexual and reproductive health behaviors.

Increasing awareness of and access to voluntary vasectomy, Papua New Guinea: Tom Ellum closed the webinar by discussing MSI’s work to generate demand for and increase voluntary uptake of vasectomy among men in Papua New Guinea. Using a combination of social behavior change communication and service delivery approaches, the project increased acceptance and use of voluntary vasectomy as part of a comprehensive method mix amongst low-literate, multilingual men and couples living in rural and remote areas with little to no previous access to FP. 

More than 60 attendees joined the webinar and engaged in a rich discussion. We are grateful to all our presenters for sharing their expertise with this sometimes-overlooked area of family planning programming. As we know, family planning is not solely an issue for women and girls, and couples frequently make decisions together. Being aware of gender norms and dynamics when developing interventions, and focusing on the unique needs of men and boys, will help ensure that family planning uptake increases.