Your reproductive health programs

In the past, most reproductive health programs have focused on family planning, which, in turn have been designed exclusively for women. Little attention has been paid to the role that men played about women’s reproductive health behavior and decision-making. However, this began to change in the 90s. Many programs changed their viewpoint and started to think that reproductive health was the broader context within which family planning ought to be viewed. The sudden explosion of AIDS into an epidemic pushed women’s health programs to broaden their range and include STI/HIV prevention.
reproductive health programs
They started to consider the economic, social and cultural factors – which included gender inequity – as important aspects of the general picture of women’s overall health status. As a result, they started to concentrate on the role that men played in relation to the women’s access to reproductive health programs and their use of these. Discussion about men, women and reproductive health started to acknowledge that gender inequities had a significant influence on sexual health of women. It had become increasingly apparent that gender inequities existed in the community, home, and the bedroom, and in the legal system, government employment policies and the labor force.

Involving men in reproductive health issues has become a major point of discussion among reproductive health professionals. Some believe that efforts to do so should address essential issues such as

* The promotion of women’s equal status, in the context of gender equality, regarding decisions about reproductive health.
* The increase of men’s support of women’s reproductive and sexual health, and of the children’s well-being, with equal attention towards female and male children.
* Caring for the men’s reproductive and sexual health in addition to the those of the women.

reproductive health programsHowever, the real fear exists that such promotional programs may actually perpetuate existing gender inequalities rather than alleviate them. Ways must also be found to overcome specific barriers and challenges relating to the involvement of men.

There are numerous roles and ways in which men influence women’s health. As a result, they are well positioned to exert a positive influence on women’s health.

Men, like women have reproductive health concerns that evolve as the pass through their life cycle. Therefore, the programs that endeavor to include men as partners in ensuring good reproductive health, have to understand these evolving needs as well as the other factors influencing their sexual perceptions, goals and behavior.

A number of strategies have been tried to that end, ant to involve them actively in women’s reproductive health improvement. However, few of the projects have approached the goal of attaining gender equality through paradigm shifts.

Those that have, tried to do so by:
* Enhancing existing clinic-based services to cater for men’s needs, or adding separate services;
* Reaching men through various men’s groups such as workplaces, or the military with information and services;
* Social marketing of condoms;
* Distribution of contraception using community based male field workers;
* Outreaching to the male youth; and
* Educational mass-media campaigns.

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