At Marie Stopes International (MSI), we believe that when women and girls have the ability to control their reproductive health and lives, all of society benefits. That’s why we aim to create welcoming and safe environments for our clients to access the contraception and safe abortion care they need.
All too often, however, the women we serve face challenges to accessing care that go far beyond immediately visible obstacles like poverty and geographical location. Myths, misconceptions and cultural taboos can make it difficult for women to find family planning resources, especially if men guard their access to key health information, finances and transportation.
To address these issues, we work through nontraditional means to build trust with communities—including men and boys—because without their collaboration, it would be impossible to do our work.
For instance, in places like Tanzania and Uganda, we work with religious leaders to garner support for family planning in communities where contraception is often viewed as a “woman’s issue.”
Religious leaders are influential and trusted members of their community, and can play a crucial role in dispelling myths about contraception and providing information on how to use and access services. Religious leaders can also help break down gender stereotypes by providing a powerful example of how men can respect and support a partner’s reproductive health decisions.
The same misconceptions and cultural barriers that prevent women from accessing our services can prevent men from becoming family planning clients, too.
Despite the fact that vasectomy is a simple, safe and cost-effective procedure, uptake is extremely low in many parts of the world. Globally, only 3% of couples use vasectomy as their main contraceptive method, even though it’s more than 99% effective.
One Marie Stopes Cambodia client, Chum Dam, says he decided to get the procedure after he heard good things from a friend.
"It's time for me to take responsibility." -Chum Dam, 41, Cambodia
“My wife has always had to have the contraception, but it’s time for me to take over now, especially as we have agreed that we don’t want any more children.”
Vasectomy is still not prevalent in Cambodia, and Chum is something of a rarity. Of the 42 people who came to see the outreach team on the day he had his procedure, Chum was the only man.
Through our outreach services and social marketing, this is starting to change in many countries.
A MS Papua New Guinea outreach worker leads an education session
In Papua New Guinea, for instance, we focus on attracting clients through the use of mass media, radio, comic books and newspaper articles, as well as local male peer educators. Using this strategy, the Marie Stopes Papua New Guinea team more than doubled its vasectomy clients from 469 in 2011 to 1,000 in 2013.
Through our targeted programming, we aim to engage men and boys in two ways: as family planning clients and supportive partners. With their involvement, we strive to make sure that every client can access family planning services free of stigma and judgement.