Breaking down gender barriers to champion maternal and child health
Child.org’s UK Aid Match project in Meru, Kenya has been working to engage men in the community in order to improve the support they provide their pregnant partners and children.
Direct engagement of the male community is a core component of the ‘Team Mum’ project and has shown to have a positive impact on maternal and child health outcomes.
Cherio, Child.org’s Programme Manager, says: “Men in Meru [Kenya, where the project is based] tend to be household decisionmakers and pregnant women cannot seek healthcare advice without their husband’s permission”.
Initially, the Child.org team saw hesitancy in engagement from male partners. Pregnant women were too shy to bring their partners along to the Pregnant Women’s Group and only a handful of men attended the male-only sessions. But by taking the conversation to sports teams, workplaces and miraa (an indigenous Kenyan plant) chewing dens, the team has had a successful turnaround; more than 2,700 men have now attended facilitated sessions.
“You have to understand why [male partners] do what they do before you talk to them about your own agenda and encourage a different way of thinking,” says Cherio.
Male engagement in the sessions has resulted in positive results outside the sessions as well. Feedback from pregnant women in the community suggests that more male partners are now fully engaged in supporting them through their pregnancy journey.