The discourse surrounding sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) predominantly centres on women, but it is imperative to acknowledge that men have an equally significant role to play in advancing SRHR.
Erich Waly Hanadaob, a senior registered nurse at the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association, offers valuable insights into why it is crucial to engage men in efforts toward gender equality and reproductive health.
Hanadaob asserts that it is high time for men to actively join the conversation.
“Education and awareness serve as the foundational pillars of their engagement. Men can take the initiative to educate themselves and others about various aspects of SRHR, including contraception methods, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the importance of regular medical checkups such as prostate cancer screenings. By promoting accurate information and dispelling myths, men empower not only themselves but also their partners, families, and communities to make informed decisions,” Hanadaob emphasises.
He also highlights the importance of challenging harmful masculinity norms – those norms that perpetuate the unequal burden of responsibility placed on women when it comes to understanding and championing SRHR.
Hanadaob explains that harmful norms often lead to violence and abuse, with men misguidedly believing that they should exert control over their partners. This has resulted in acts of revenge, female genital mutilation, and even violence against women who defy traditional gender roles. He says breaking free from these norms is essential to fostering a safer and more equal society.
For that reason, men must actively challenge these norms by speaking out against gender-based violence (GBV), promoting consent in all aspects of life, and advocating for the rights of marginalised groups such as LGBTQI, Hanadoab adds.
Furthermore, he encourages men to push for comprehensive sexual education (CSE) and improved access to quality healthcare services, adding that their involvement in SRHR discussions will yield more equitable and comprehensive outcomes. “Men’s active involvement in family planning can change this world,” he says.
He explains that as men actively participate in family planning discussions, access healthcare services, and challenge harmful norms, society benefits from healthier individuals and more educated, skilled citizens who can contribute to economic stability and development.
Creating Empowering Environments
Hanadaob believes that to empower men to actively participate in SRHR and make informed reproductive decisions, society as a whole must promote gender equality, reject patriarchal norms, and advocate for women’s autonomy over their bodies and reproductive choices. In this way, men can contribute to creating an environment that respects and supports women’s SRHR rights.
However, through his work, he has learned that challenges such as work commitments or unwillingness to shift their mindsets can hinder men’s participation in discussions.
Nonetheless, it is clear to him that involving men in SRHR advocacy is not just a matter of gender equality; it’s a step towards better public health.
Hanadaob’s insights highlight the pivotal role that men can and should play in SRHR. His hope is that actively engaging men as allies can edge the Namibian society closer to achieving holistic reproductive health outcomes and fostering a more equitable society where everyone’s SRHR rights are protected and supported.
He shares a success story, highlighting the potential effect of involving men in sexual and reproductive health advocacy: “I have seen many men, some of them were just in high school when they started coming to this sexual reproductive health clinic where women are receiving contraception methods of their choice, where they are receiving health information talks. So I take SRHR as a sexual reproductive health information services provision, because many times when they come there, they can get information from us, the healthcare workers, and go home with that information.”
He adds that these individuals, starting from high school, accessed information that allowed them to plan for their futures, thus contributing to the economy and the country’s development, with some even becoming lawyers and chartered accountants.
This, he says, exemplifies the positive impact of educating men and youth on sexual and reproductive health and emphasises the potential for individual growth and societal progress.
Arlana is a seasoned journalist dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices and promoting narratives that drive change. She has tackled a range of topics, from health and environment to social justice, advocacy, education, and politics. She describes her craft as ‘painting with words’. Follow her on Twitter (X): @_pandulana
Image credit: Hildegard Titus