In July of this year, MenEngage Tanzania members took part in a site visit to a male-friendly health clinic. Representatives from CHAMPION (MenEngage Tanzania Secretariat), Jhpiego, the Tanzania Interfaith Partnership (TIP) and Concern, visited the Marie Stopes Health Clinic in Mwenge, Dar es Salaam to gain insight into the efforts to increase male participation in HIV testing and counseling and family planning services. Marie Stopes has received training from CHAMPION every year since 2009 on how to make their clinics more accommodating to men, to address the fact that increasing men’s uptake of health services is good for their health and welfare, and that of their partners and children.
The visit to the Marie Stopes Health Clinic was very informative and beneficial to both the MenEngage partners and Marie Stopes. It was a fantastic opportunity for the partners to learn first hand about how health services are being made more male-friendly, which is one of the key goals of the network. The visit was led by Josiah Otege (Policy and Advocacy Officer) and Mary Kagoro (Manager) who were both very positive about the involvement of men in their clinic, highlighting the key services that men are actively participating in:
- Antenatal care (ANC)
- Family planning (FP)
- Voluntary counseling and testing (VCT)
- Prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT)
Significant increases in male participation have been noticed in FP and PMTCT services. In addition to men accompanying their partners to these services, Marie Stopes also reported that many men come alone to test for HIV. Their facilities are also youth-friendly and they have witnessed adolescents as young as 16 attending the clinics to receive HIV services.
Marie Stopes coordinate outreach services (free of charge) for VCT and FP across Tanzania and refer patients to their clinics. As well as this extensive outreach programme, their posters, brochures and other IEC materials have been tailored to encourage men’s participation in various health services, also contributing to the increase in male uptake. To ensure that their services remain male-friendly, Marie Stopes has developed a detailed action plan that includes how to further engage men in services. The action plan includes the development of more IEC materials and they are currently in the process of designing brochures that demonstrate how condoms should be used correctly.
Despite the evident progress that has been made, Marie Stopes commented that they still face many challenges, including:
- Creating awareness in the community and letting men know that the facilities are available and friendly to everyone.
- Training of trainers for the male-friendly services to continue, as many of those who were originally trained by CHAMPION no longer work for Marie Stopes.
- Limited funding for the production of IEC materials.
Visiting MenEngage members offered their suggestions on how Marie Stopes could overcome their challenges and strengthen their male-friendly services. In addition, some members also recognized the potential for their own work to be significantly enhanced by working with Marie Stopes. The suggestions raised will allow for further collaboration and leveraging of resources by MenEngage members, and ultimately continuing to strengthen the network as a whole.
MenEngage Tanzania is a network that prides itself on creating a community of practice by facilitating learning sessions on working with men for gender equality. Whilst we strive to advocate for male engagement in health services to the external world, we also believe it is important for our own network partners to participate in learning opportunities. In doing so, our partners are encouraged to incorporate male engagement into their own scope of work, thus ensuring our activities and goals are sustained.
By Myra Betron, CHAMPION, Tanzania