Engaging men in family planning services can improve health

Population Council launches series of Research Documents on Involving Men in Family Planning in Pakistan

Engaging men as agents of change can increase family planning use, improve health of men and women, strengthen families and transform societies. This perspective was highlighted at national consultative meeting on “Engaging the Missing Link: Evidence from FALAH for Involving Men in Family Planning in Pakistan” Population Council, Pakistan in Islamabad.

men-engageResearch suggests that engagement of men can improve access to and use of family planning. Yet in South Asia, many cultural factors limit men’s involvement in family planning. Global evidence suggests that group education, community outreach and clinic-based interventions can effectively change men’s behavior and gender-related attitudes about family planning. Collating the existing evidence from both national and international sources, the Population Council Pakistan has developed a series of research documents to highlight the importance of involving men in family planning efforts in Pakistan.

Speakers noted that it is especially relevant in country settings like Pakistan where fertility rates remain high and family planning use is low due to a host of factors that include gender inequality and men’s dominant role in family decision-making. The Council research shows that men in Pakistan now want to adopt family planning as a means to regulate their fertility and consequently want more comprehensive information on the types of option available and from where services can be accessed.

Constructive male engagement can improve men’s and women’s reproductive health and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Dr. Zeba A. Sathar (T.I.), Country Director of Population Council said that since the past five decades focus has been on women. Efforts to involve men have been at best sporadic and halfhearted and certainly not carried out to the scale required. It is time to introduce a real change in the Family Planning programmatic strategy and focus on promoting services for men because it may be one of the critical ways of accelerating a fertility decline in the Country.

Ms. Iram Kamran, Senior Program Officer, Population Council gave a presentation and spoke on “Meeting Men’s Unmet Need for Family Planning in Pakistan”. Economic pressures and inflation are the main reasons behind why they think that this should use Family Planning Methods. The Council research shows men are now also concerned about their wives health.  She further added that men want good services and information be made available to them.

Ms. Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Technical Advisor, Oversight and Coordination Cell for All Public Health & Primary Health Care Programs, Government of Sindh, also spoke at the meeting.

She stressed for developing a joint strategic approach whereby the Population Welfare and Health Departments and the public and private sectors work together in improving access to family planning services and reach out to men with services that they need. Better monitoring of program activities will help in reducing unmet need for family planning.

While Pakistan was not able to achieve the MDG’s but we must put in concentrated efforts to achieve the new SDG’s, she urged.

Dr Najma Afzal, MPA Punjab and Mr Mahmood Jan, MPA KP also spoke at the occasion and stressed the need for better implementation of the family planning program activities coupled by improved accountability.

Attended by large number of provincial and federal government representatives, donor organizations, health professionals, academics, NGOs and civil society representatives, the consultative session was an opportunity for subject experts to share their views on involving men in family planning efforts onus as this is the best way for helping families and communities achieve family wellbeing . Representatives from Punjab, Sindh, KP, Baluchistan, GB and Azad Kashmir also spoke at the occasion.

Population Council
Group photo of participants at consultative meeting on engaging men in family planning services organized Population Council, Pakistan in Islamabad.

Family Advancement for Life and Health (FALAH) project

Ms. Seemin Ashfaq, Deputy Director (Programs), Population Council gave detailed presentation on engaging men in family planning in Pakistan. Men express a clear desire to be involved in family planning interventions as the PDHS 2012-13 found that 76 percent of men (86 percent urban and 72 percent rural) disagreed with the idea that contraception is a woman’s business and a man should not have to worry about it.

She said that there is clear evidence that religious and social barriers to adopting family planning are more pronounced among men than women.

Family Advancement for Life and Health (FALAH) project implemented by the Population Council (from 2007-2012) aimed at improving access to family planning services identified the importance of taking onboard Ulemas and local religious leaders at the grassroots level to mitigate the perception that religion is opposed to family planning.

Ms. Ashfaq gave details of the interventions that were implemented for reaching out to men that included arranging male group meetings, providing interpersonal counseling through volunteers workers; arranging interactive theaters that targeted both men and women. Research evidence shows that the intervention led to an improvement in all behavioral indicators.

Key points of FALAH project:

FALAH’s experience of engaging men in its target communities bears out the finding of recent studies that Pakistani men are ready, indeed eager, to be involved directly in family planning.

Male engagement can be implemented on a large scale.

Media campaigns specially TV campaign, translated into a significant increase in men’s behavior.

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