Husband Schools: Bringing Men into Family Planning
Over 137 Husbands Schools have been created in Niger’s Zinder Region since 2004 by UNFPA. The schools aim to educate men on the importance of reproductive health and foster behavior change at the community level. The interaction between husbands gives the members insight into how they perceive maternal health issues and can be a tool for changing behavior.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The school members meet about twice a month on an ongoing basis to analyze and discuss specific cases within the community in the area of reproductive health. During meetings, husbands look for appropriate solutions based on knowledge available within the group or obtained from a specialist. For example, on the basis of information provided by local health personnel, husbands identified places with low rates of prenatal consultation. After identifying the problem, the husbands devise strategies to get more pregnant and breastfeeding women to attend Integrated Health Centres, thereby improving the health of their families and the uptake of health services.
The schools have led to positive spin-off initiatives, some of which emphasize the close link between sanitation and health. For example communities are implementing new hygiene measures in line with women’s concerns. Husbands built latrines in the health centers to enhance women’s comfort and privacy. They have also constructed a midwives’ residence, an observation room for women in labor, and a prenatal consultation room.
Results of the schools include:
- Use of family planning services has tripled in communities where the schools operate.
- During the first nine months of 2013 in Maiki, approximately 1,700 women received prenatal consultations at the health center, a 95 percent increase from 2012.
- The number of childbirths attended by skilled healthcare personnel has doubled in communities where the schools operate.
- An increase in rates of safe delivery, from approximately 12 percent to nearly 30 percent in one community and from 16 percent to over 32 percent in another between 2008 and 2009.
- The rate of antenatal visits at the Bandé health center rose from approximately 28 percent in 2006
- to 87 percent in 2010.
The Husband Schools primarily influence behavior within individual couples. Husbands and wives say that they are now talking to each other more. Men better understand the importance of the health of their wives and children. Member husbands are acting as guides for their own families and for other families that find it hard to get to a health center. There has also been a change in behavior among villagers, authorities, and healthcare workers. Health centers that achieve the best results are those where healthcare workers have good relations with local people and the Husband Schools in particular.
- Husband Schools in Rural Niger; unfpa.org
- More on Husband Schools in Niger; niger.unfpa.org
- Husband Schools to Improve the Health of Families; unfpa.org
- Source: Meet the Demand for Modern Contraception and Reproductive Health policy brief