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Engaging men and boys as active partners of change

In the village of Chisuko, Zimbabwe, many community members maintain cultural beliefs and practices that prevent males from supporting their wives through pregnancy and childbirth. Men often get ridiculed for helping their spouses with chores during a pregnancy or seeking medical care at a health facility. Imagine breaking widespread norms around masculinity, especially in a tight knit community.

 

Our Impact

Through several programs, Plan International is working with over 3 million men and boys and engaging them as agents of change to pave the way for more equitable relations and to change the birth stories in their homes and communities.

 
Father hugs his daughter

Regedzai is just one of Plan’s many advocates that challenge these traditional gender roles through his own behaviour at home, taking care of his two children and carrying out household chores. However, this wasn’t always the case.

When Regedzai’s wife, Rudo, was pregnant with their third child, Regedzai did not approve of her seeking health care at a facility. Rudo therefore did not get her required four antenatal check-ups. When she was eight months pregnant, Rudo noticed that the baby had not moved for four days. Anxious about the baby’s health, she went to the clinic without Regedzai’s knowledge. When she finally saw a nurse, Rudo faced the worst possible news: her baby was no longer alive and they needed to induce labour to deliver the stillborn child. Not only did he lose his newborn baby, but Regedzai lost his wife later that day when she went into cardiac arrest.

Men are most commonly the ones tasked with making household and family decisions, such as how to spend money and when to have children. Widespread norms around masculinity, and what being a man, husband and father means, can discourage men from participating in caregiving and from seeking out information on sexual and reproductive health.

Regedzai recognized why it’s important for men to support their wives, before, after and during pregnancy and uses this experience as a cautionary tale to other men- if they do not support antenatal care and delivery at a health facility.

Father holding baby

What Plan International is doing

Plan International works with men and adolescent boys to engage them to become partners of change, using maternal and health as an entry point and expanding to discussing sexual and reproductive health issues and rights, including prevention of gender-based violence and prevention of child, early and forced marriages and other harmful traditional practices. harmful traditional practices.* Harmful traditional practices are practices which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice.  

Engaging men includes forming “Daddies’ Clubs” and father groups in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Haiti, Tanzania and Bangladesh, working with traditional leaders, creating adolescent boys groups, training community role models, like Regedzai, who is now a Gender Equality Champion in his community.

"I did not take Regedzai’s experiences for granted and such grave mistakes are not to be repeated,” said Zvibato, a local male. “I am ensuring my pregnant wife has time to rest and I always accompany her to the clinic."

Daddies club meeting

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