Niger is a country in West Africa with the highest birth rate in the world – approximately seven children per woman. The government has recognized that fast population growth hampers the country’s development. Along with advocacy groups, the government has campaigned to delay marriage for teenage girls and encourage the use of contraception. However, in patriarchal societies, men are the primary roadblocks to social change. The “School for Husbands” is a program for husbands to discuss birth control, family planning, prenatal care, breastfeeding, etc. When the school started, only 5% of women in Niger used contraception. Now, up to 13% of women use contraception.
Do you have any additional ideas/suggestions for how husbands can be included in maternal health initiatives?
This is a very important topic, especially in regions like West Africa where birth rates are high. A lot of Men in these regions are more concerned with having large families, without thinking about the ramifications. Awareness and education on this topic can never be overstressed. A lot of people just do not know. In West Africa, children are seen as signs of wealth, the more you have the “wealthier” your family is. In Nigeria ( The country right below Niger) a lot of the people who have up to 7 children have multiple wives and not enough money to take care of them all. A lot of the wives are still children themselves and are just barely able to care for themselves. You find the children having to drop out of school and hawk goods on the road to help provide for their family. Some families even result to begging just to make ends meet.
I think it is very important to educate the men who are seen as the breadwinners and decision makers in this region. I f they were more aware of the adverse effects of not planning for your family, they may be more open to the idea. A lot of cultures in this area are also apprehensive about contraceptives, and the more they are educated on the topic the more familiar it becomes and the more accepting they are of it. It will take sometime, because they have gotten so used to one way of doing things, but with persistent education and awareness those numbers will rise even more.