A family attends a healthcare check-up
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.
Meanwhile, following existing cultural traditions, very few men 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. Having the support of their husbands to lighten a mother's workload and ensure she can access the health services she needs can make a lifesaving difference for pregnant women and their children.
With the help of donors like you, Plan is getting men involved to improve the health of their entire family. 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.
"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."
What's more, 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.
Harare, another maternal health ambassador, confirmed the impact these interventions are having:“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."
These changes are reinforced throughout the community and they have a direct effect on the health of women and children. Thanks to additional training for health care workers, clinics are more welcoming, engaging men with simple activities -- like listening to their baby’s heartbeat -- that can have big pay offs in encouraging men to provide the support their family needs.
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.
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.
Listening to baby's heartbeat
Elijah hosts a gender equality meeting