BY EMMANUEL MWITA
Public health officials and reproductive health experts have for the longest time advocated for the involvement of men as a strategy of addressing the low uptake of family planning services among the male.
The uptake and utilization of family planning services and modern contraceptives depend on numerous factors. But the male partner plays a key role in the reproductive health of a couple.
Different studies have revealed the complex and evolving role that male partners play in contraceptives uptake and use. In most cases men have been gatekeepers and decision makers for women’s reproductive health or as “add-ons” in activities that focus on providing information and services to women’s reproductive health.
Understanding the role that male partners play in Family Planning uptake and use is important in preventing unintended pregnancies and improving family planning policy and service delivery programs. By identifying barriers that male partners present, appropriate strategies can be implemented.
Equally important is establishing how male partners facilitate and promote adherence and use of Family Planning and how these positive strategies can be put together to improve uptake and use of contraceptives.
Culturally influenced gender dynamics and adequate understanding of Family Planning and contraceptives information are key factors that influence male attitude and perceptions about contraceptives whether positively or negatively.
Male opposition is often limited to understanding; misunderstanding about side effects of family planning and contraceptives, male dominance in the relationship and physical abuse. These also contribute to covert or discontinued use of Family Planning and contraceptives by female partners.
Multiple studies have identified pathways through which male partners positively influenced Family planning Family planning and contraceptives uptake and access, including; social support, adequate information and shared responsibility.
Efforts to expand the vision of strategically engaging men in family planning and reproductive health have been slow but steady.
Gender experts agree that men should be encouraged to be supportive partners of women’s reproductive health while meeting their own reproductive health needs and engaged as agents of change in families.
It is therefore prudent to continue engaging the men, including the adolescent boys, constructively to be users of reproductive health services themselves; shifting gender norms; improving communication and joint decision making by couples on family planning and contraceptives uptake.
Mr Mwita is a reproductive health advocate at NAYA Kenya