A Ugandan study has asked why male engagement programs in the country have had such limited success and goes on to make proposals for how to do things differently.
The researcher, Solomon Mwije at the Ugandan Christian University, makes a number of recommendations:
- Shift action from health centres to communities.
- Train men to be involved in health facilities and give them the task of engaging with men.
- Attach activity to income generation, given the key role and interest that men in Uganda have in breadwinning.
- Celebrate in public active male champions.
- Organise national stakeholder networks able to monitor activities.
- Engage women.
These recommendations overlap with other recommendations coming from Uganda about how to engage men better in maternal health.
The government of Uganda, in partnership with other health promotion institutions such as the United Nations agencies, has formulated a range of strategies for engaging men in sexual and reproductive health.
One key initiative was the National Strategy for Male Involvement in Child Health, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights including HIV and Aids (2011-2016). This targeted action by health services, both public and private. It included: mobilising stakeholders, building capacity, integrating male-friendly services in programmes, strengthening networking and partnerships, lobbying and advocating for resources and supporting research and evaluation. An evaluation of the programme never took place, however.
In addition, a programme to set up Male Action Groups in 15 districts the country was established in 2012. This approach was more grass-roots, involving peer promotion, outreach, and reproductive health and rights activities. An evaluation in 2013 showed some effect, for example a 28% increase in women being accompanied by their husband for antenatal care. However, this programme has not flourished. 8 of 52 groups ceased to function within a year . Problems included community mistrust and limited commitment by stakeholders. The intention was for the groups to have up to 25 regular members; the average was only 12.
Mwije S, Men and maternal health: the dilemma of short-lived male involvement strategies in Uganda, Health Care for Women International, 2018
Photo: The White Ribbon Alliance. Creative Commons.