Empowering women by engaging men
What if men were eager to be supporting partners and allies for women’s empowerment?
Walking into a garment factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and into a HERHealth training on the topic of family planning is an unexpected experience. Unexpected, but refreshing and empowering. Each worker sits rapt with their eyes fixed on the peer educator, listening to each word and raising their hands eagerly for questions. When you look closer, you are even more surprised to see that this traditionally women-only training is actually filled with both men and women: line operators, supervisors, managers. They are husbands, partners, fathers and brothers. Suddenly, the topic of the training takes on deeper meaning.
It is amazing to see how curious and eager all the male participants are to learn about women's health, specifically about the female reproductive system. They stop to think and process the information they are receiving. One thing is sure, they want to understand every bit of it. They are fascinated to learn about women’s cycle and how they can practice family planning together with their wives or partners. They want to know what they can do to ensure that their partner stays healthy, and how she can protect herself against infectious diseases and cancer.
In this particular garment factory, ShareHope has piloted a co-ed HERHealth program, a curriculum typically designed for women. But this specific factory requested that men also participate in the trainings and the impact has spoken for itself. There is a buzz among the managers (most of them men) about the effect this co-ed training has had on their factory and workers’ lives.
What the men have learned through HERhealth has positively affected their involvement at home. These fathers and husbands explain that, through the HERhealth curriculum, they have been inspired to become more active partners in their homes. Some of them are now helping with the purification of water, the cleaning of fruit and vegetables, and even with cleaning the house. Others say that they have begun to have conversations with their wives about family planning and want their daughters to know about the female reproductive cycle.
However, the transformation goes beyond the division of labor at home. The information they have received is changing the way they treat the women in their lives. Through the HERHealth curriculum, these men explain that they have come to respect their wives more and want to be more faithful to them. A few male peer educators who have been responsible for training their fellow workers share that they have an increased appreciation for their spouse or partner. Some single men admit that they want to be more committed to their girlfriends and not have multiple partners. Many male participants have even become advocates for women in their communities, sharing what they have learned with other men in their communities and raising awareness on the issue of family planning.
One man summarized it all: “I guess I was just missing the tools to be a better partner. Through the HERHealth training, I have more information and I can put it into practice at home with my wife and family; I can help my wife and support her more. And it is good for both of us!”