Men as Change Agents in Increasing Access to and Utilization of Family Planning Information and Methods

Men in Oldonyiro (Isiolo County) are bestowed with the critical role of decision-making at the household level. This is the norm as structured around a patriarchal society. The Samburu man champions more children, which signifies an increase in wealth. Thus, despite the ability to take care of many mouths, a huge family is most appreciated. Unfortunately, the Samburu man does not play a substantial role in the nurturing of children, as that is presumed to be the core business of women. This is the reason for years of disregard for family planning (FP) messages and services. For years, men in Oldonyiro (one of the seven wards in the Isiolo North Constituency of Isiolo County) have interpreted FP to mean “kukata” (Swahili for “stop giving birth”), which they vehemently opposed, a major barrier in reaching Women of Reproductive Age (WRA) with desired FP services.

In reversing the trends of negative indices, Faith to Action Network through the DESIP program has continued to build the capacity of community-based resource persons (CBRPs) to create awareness and dispel myths in the community by giving factual messages about the meaning and benefits of family planning to both the Samburu man and the potential WRA. The CBRPs who are trained CHVs, peer educators, religious leaders and TBAs, disseminated information on child spacing and the availability of contraceptives. This is bearing fruits by creating spaces within the community to both discuss and support access to family planning.

Meet Siret Letuya (standing in the photo) from the Oldonyiro health centre, Isiolo County. He has two wives and, as he puts it, “many children.” As we commonly refer to him, he is among the CHVs that were identified by Nurse Gabriella to undergo training on family planning during the first year of DESIP. He initially hesitated and did not want to attend or participate in the training because of the cultural belief that FP is a women’s agenda. After the training, he did not actively engage in community sensitization until he had a personal experience that was life-threatening to his family. There was a tribal/boundary conflict between the Maasai from Laikipia and the Samburu from the Isiolo side. For security purposes, this led to the community members’ having to flee from their homes with their families and livestock. Unfortunately for Mzee Letuya, this necessary move was a challenge as one of his wives had 3 children under the age of 5. They all had to be carried as they could not run on their own.
“It was cumbersome to carry the children, small goats, and domestic items at the same time!” Mzee Letuya lamented.
That is when he understood the benefits of child spacing from his own personal experience. This completely changed his perspective on child spacing. He discussed with his wives about child spacing and when peace and normalcy resumed, he accompanied his wives to the Oldonyiro health centre where they were given a family planning method. Since then, Mzee Letuya has become a family planning ambassador among her peers. He now advocates for FP and has convinced other men in his area to support their spouses by using FP methods. This has been a big milestone for male involvement, and the norms are changing with men embracing child spacing thanks to Mzee Letuya!