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Men stand up for female health

Rigid gender roles and stereotypes go hand-in-hand with poverty. They harm girls and women, and they harm boys and men.

That’s why, with your help, we’re supporting community-based projects that involve everyone in challenging the gender-based practices that stop them from working together to achieve their full potential, as individuals, families, and communities.

“Male engagement sessions have enlightened a lot of men,” says Elijah, a project leader in Zimbabwe. “They help their wives with household chores, accompany them to prenatal checkups, and include them in household decision-making.”

Communities in rural Zimbabwe and Mali have some of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. Traditionally, local women have borne sole responsibility for pregnancy, child care, domestic work and agricultural labour – often all at once. This gruelling, unsustainable and potentially dangerous load sets the stage for health complications and can have a devastating domino-effect on children and families.

A family attends a healthcare check-up.

Meanwhile, men have followed cultural traditions, and few of them have pitched in to help their wives with domestic chores or accompany them or their children to the clinic when needed. And yet, it is male participation in these very tasks that is vital to keeping families strong and flourishing.

Invest in changing minds to change lives

With your contribution, we’ve trained dozens of local men and community leaders on the importance of gender equality and maternal health, and together we’re shattering stereotypes and fostering new understanding.

These men are now working as champions for women and children by facilitating peer-to-peer and group discussions with other men about what they can do to help improve the health of their families and become better parents and partners.

Elijah speaks to a group of men in his community.

Elijah leads a gender and maternal health awareness session for local men.

Harare, another maternal health ambassador, agrees: “Men have embraced shared responsibilities and now appreciate that gender roles are not set in stone. Men are breaking the rigid systems that have haunted maternal, newborn and child health for centuries.”

Thanks to additional training for health care workers, clinics are more welcoming, engaging men with simple activities that have big pay offs, like listening to their baby’s heartbeat.

Already, nurses have seen an increase in the number of men accompanying their wives to the clinic and getting involved, and husbands have been happy to notice an improvement in the health of their wives and children.

Even health workers – like Mr. Tikabo, from Mali, who now offers women vital medications and health services on credit – are more committed to improving access to female healthcare.

A man listens to a baby’s heartbeat from his pregnant partner’s stomach at a health checkup.

Women are noticing improved health too, along with better quality of life and more confidence, security and support in their marriages and parenting. Some even identified a change in their husbands’ perceptions towards their children, where they now value and treat both sons and daughters equally.

“We have opened new eyes. The truth is, we were blinded by our patriarchal ways of thinking,” says one male gender equality champion in Zimbabwe. “It is important to empower our wives by ensuring that their rights have been realized, including their right to access and utilize maternal health services.”

Thanks to your investment in women and girls everywhere, we’re helping establish a cycle of progress that results in healthier and happier children and stronger families, which are the backbone of development and strong communities.

*Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada.

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