Generating Demand for Health: Engaging Men in MCH Issues
For years, many programs targeting maternal health have worked primarily with women, which superficially makes sense since women are the ones having babies. However, in patriarchal societies like Uganda, the people who decide whether or not a woman should seek prenatal care or deliver her babies in a health center (as opposed to at home) is quite often a husband or other male family member. Male relatives are also involved in making general health decisions, and in paying for services if medication or testing is needed. For this reason, it is essential that programs seeking to improve maternal and child health work directly with men as well as with women, to foster a supportive and empowered environment for good health decisions.
SAFE works with one all-male men's group and several co-ed development associations that include a large proportion of male members. Our approach in working with men includes first addressing general health issues with which the men in a given community are concerned--for example, sanitation, malaria, nutrition, and access to health services. After we have developed a solid relationship with the group, we undertake a more specific conversation and related projects more directly concentrated on family planning, maternal health, birthing practices, and newborn care.
45% of women in the East Central Region report that their spouses are the only ones allowed to make health decisions. Men must be partners for maternal and child health to improve!