Men Relate to Male Health Promotion Officer Seeking to Strengthen Male Engagement in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria

Jan 23, 2024

Contributed by Obasesam Edet, Uduak Ananaba and Dorcas Akila

Men Relate to Male Health Promotion Officer Seeking to Strengthen Male Engagement in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria

Jan 23, 2024

Contributed by Obasesam Edet, Uduak Ananaba and Dorcas Akila

Moses Akpan (right) is a health promotion officer in Akwa Ibom State.

As a Health Promotion Officer in the Essien Udim Local Government Area (LGA) of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria, Moses Akpan focuses primarily on social mobilization and health education within his community. Akpan, who recently received coaching from The Challenge Initiative (TCI), said:

 Before TCI came into the state, social mobilization for family planning was non-existent. TCI has been a game-changer, elevating the visibility for FP through their comprehensive training, coaching and mentoring.”

Many women of reproductive age in Essien Udim had shared during social mobilization engagements “a cloud” of myths and misconceptions surrounding family planning services. And while some women recognized the benefits of family planning, their husbands, driven by fear or misinformation, prohibited them from utilizing these services.

In addition, women who sought out family planning services in secret often found their relationships strained when their husbands eventually discovered the truth. This frequently led to emotionally charged situations, with some women returning to clinics to discontinue their family planning method. Due to perceived community norms and practices that labeled family planning a “woman’s issue,” men were seen as one of the primary barriers to family planning service uptake in Essien Udim. Men were often excluded from everything related to family planning in the LGA, from discussions to seeking services.

After receiving technical coaching from TCI, Akpan took matters into his own hands and initiated social mobilization activities explicitly focused on engaging men in family planning. When men in the LGA witnessed another man leading a campaign for family planning services, they started listening more, asking questions, clarifying myths and showing an active interest. Some women in the LGA even reported that their husbands encouraged them to visit the clinic for family planning services.

A family planning provider in the Mkpat Enin LGA in Akwa Ibom State, Nsima Umoh, also reported increased male involvement in and acceptance of family planning. Some have even begun accompanying their wives to the clinic to access family planning services. Umoh shared:

 We have noticed that more men are now friendly with the family planning program in the communities. We don’t hear issues, misunderstandings, and women reporting abuse anymore when their husbands are told that their wives took an FP method. What we see now is couples seeking more information about family planning and its benefits.”

Data from the State DHIS2 platform also shows that more men are involved in family planning. The data below and experiences like Moses’ and other family planning stakeholders demonstrates that more men are indeed now involved in family planning.

Umoh recounted:

 Today, some men are even approaching me, inquiring about FP methods for men beyond condoms.”

Engaging and involving men in family planning can significantly impact communities. Thanks to individuals like Moses and organizations like TCI, Akwa Ibom State is experiencing a positive shift towards more inclusive family planning practices.

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