By Lucinda van den Heever
The Learning Centre Initiative is a new partnership between the Swedish Association of Sexuality Education (RFSU) and Sonke Gender Justice. These partners are working to support the project sites Reproductive Health Uganda, based in Hoima, and Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia based in Choma, to develop their work to engage men and boys for sexual and reproductive health.
The two sites where chosen to be part of the Learning Centre Initiative Project based on their outstanding work they did during the YMEP Project, (Young Men as Equal Partners Program). This four year project funded by SIDA used male involvement as a strategy to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young people through men’s utilization of sexual and reproductive health services.
The Learning Centre Initiative builds on this work with an overall aim to increase male involvement in sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and on improving learning and sharing in order to improve the evidence base and widen the impact.
The Learning Centre Initiative’s conceptual framework is based on:
- Men as equal partners – addressing gender inequality and unfair gender roles, openness of sexuality, tackling negative features of masculinity
- Men as clients – increasing men’s utilization of relevant sexual and reproductive services
- Men as agents of change – increasing men’s participation in promotion/delivery of sexual and reproductive health services
Each site has its own unique strategy of involving men in sexual and reproductive health at community level.
Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia uses the following strategy to engage men:
- Men’s Forum (Insaka) – Male Insakas are discussions forums for men whereby gender issues, the roles of men and sexual and reproductive health are discussed.
- Drama Performances – A variety of drama performances are done to sensitise the community members on male involvement in sexual and reproductive health. Topics raised are the roles men can play in being good partners, the need for men to promote health services and healthy living and encouraging men to use the services of clinics.
- Musical Concerts – this is another medium which attracts a large crowd to disseminate information about men’s involvement in sexual and reproductive health. At the concerts, information tables are set up, VCT is conducted and condoms and information distributed.
- Edusport – Education through sport, especially soccer, attracts a lot of men. This is an entry point for men to access information and to listen to sexual and reproductive health information on a public address system. Tournaments are held regularly through the year.
- Mobile Video Shows – These are mobile videos which are placed in the centre of the community such as a marketplace where it is very busy. Different videos are shown on various issues on gender and sexual and reproductive health.
- Stakeholders meetings – Building partnerships with other organisations and government. These platforms are created to promote the involvement of men in sexual and reproductive health and start conversations around committing to the work of including men.
- Radio Program – PPAZ has been given slots on the radio to speak about male involvement in sexual and reproductive health.
- Male Circumcision Campaign – PPAZ worked with Society for Family Health (SFH) to publicise male circumcision service provision. This is tailored at promoting male circumcision and the health benefits for men.
Reproductive Health Uganda
- Training of Peer Educators: Peer educators are helping to mobilize men to use services and to get involved in other activities of the project, particularly community outreaches, Gender Focused Discussions and male-only days at the learning centre.
- Formation of Clubs: Men’s clubs are being used as an entry point to male involvement promotion and utilization of Sexual and Reproductive Health services. The clubs hold meetings to discuss reproductive health issues, maternal health, gender issues, HIV, condom use and income generation.
- Television and Radio Programs: These programs discuss and stimulate conversation on male involvement and mobilize communities to act on promoting sexual health. They also provide information on male involvement.
- Gender Focused Discussions (GFDs): Through GFDs, men meet to discuss gender and sexual and reproductive health issues. They also share experiences as men and develop mechanisms to deal with their sexual and reproductive health problems.
- Community outreach: This activity helps to take SRHR services and activities to places of work for men, especially to those who do not have time to come to the learning centre.
- Male-only Days: These days are used to give special attention to men. They are special days dedicated to providing services exclusively to men, especially those who have no time or fear being seen accessing SRH services.