We have started to treat our sons and daughters more equally.Father taking part in MenCare+
In the programme MenCare+ husbands are encouraged to attend the births of their children. Young men are educated on sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and care giving. MenCare+ is a Rutgers programme in partnership with Promundo, working in Brazil, Indonesia, Rwanda and South Africa. It builds on the global MenCare campaign for more responsible fathers.
South Africa has some of the world’s highest levels of absent fathers. Often this is caused by labour migration and poverty. Some South African men feel that they should only be with their children if they can provide for them. This does not mean they do not care, but they might prefer to be absent than face their shame.
MenCare+ is effective in making men involved and responsible husbands and fathers, encouraging respect and understanding between the sexes. Our focus groups showed the need to engage female partners in our fatherhood groups, increasing women’s acceptance of change.
We work with health sector workers so that it becomes accepted and expected that men will attend antenatal sessions and childbirth. We’ve been able to convince them by showing them evidence of the benefits of male involvement.
Families adopt and sustain what they learn. One couple said, “We have renewed our appreciation for each other.” Another reported, “We moved from an abusive relationship to one that is free from violence and where we really respect and communicate with each other.” In MenCare+ men who use violence in the home are counselled to deal with their anger, and learn to communicate and share domestic responsibilities with their partners.
Men as allies
Rutgers presented MenCare+ to the 58th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in 2014, arguing that we cannot improve the position of women and girls without engaging men and boys. We see men as allies in reducing gender-based violence and promoting more equal relationships and believe this positive role for men should be recognised in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Better for the world
The keynote speaker at the Johannes Rutgers Lecture during World Sexual Health Day 2013 was Gary Barker, international director of our MenCare+ partner Promundo. The Dutch language, Barker said, does not have one word for the English term “care giving”. That term covers more than providing care: empathy, responsibility, solidarity and having an emotional tie are all part of it. Barker said caring by men isn’t only good for people around them – women, children, the world – but also for men themselves. These men usually live longer, have better sex, and are wealthier and happier.
The MenCare+ programme ended at the end of 2015, but a comparative programme called Prevention+ has started as of 2016.
Mencare+ engaging men in a 4-country initiative: Brazil, Indonesia, Rwanda and South Africa.