Men As Partners Expands Its Global Reach and Impact
Manoj is a man on a mission. His work is his passion, and he is always looking for new, innovative ways to reach people. A peer educator and counselor in his home state of Uttar Pradesh, India, Manoj is motivated to combat the HIV epidemic by a very personal reason: Manoj was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2002.
Recently, Manoj participated in trainings and workshops given by EngenderHealth’s Men As Partners (MAP) Program, and he is excited about his new knowledge and skills. He says, “It’s the first time that something like this is happening in India…. MAP is a very unique approach because it not only makes men aware of their responsibilities, it also makes their sexual partners aware of their rights.”
Working with Men to Promote Health and Gender Equity
Around the world, women carry disproportionate responsibility for reproductive health. And while women receive the bulk of reproductive health education, gender dynamics can sometimes render women powerless to make decisions. Recognizing the need to reach out to men with services and education that enable them to share in the responsibility for reproductive health, EngenderHealth launched the MAP Program in 1996. The program helps men play constructive roles in promoting gender equity and health in their families and communities.
Since its inception, MAP has become a global phenomenon, expanding to 13 countries to date. EngenderHealth does not employ a “one size fits all” approach when bringing the MAP Program into a new country—instead, MAP is tailored to the unique needs of each community.
In South Africa, for example, a country with high rates of both gender-based violence and HIV infection, MAP partners with local and national organizations to tackle these twin epidemics. The South Africa MAP Program implements workshops to explore gender roles; promotes the use of counseling services to encourage voluntary HIV testing; advocates for change in public policies about health; and leads mass media campaigns to challenge widespread attitudes about gender. Established in 1998, the South Africa MAP Program has garnered much attention in the international community, including a nomination for a prestigious Red Ribbon Award at the XVI International AIDS Conference in August 2006.
In addition to South Africa, EngenderHealth and its partners maintain longstanding MAP programs in India, Kenya, and Nepal, and lead activities in countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, and Nigeria. Some of MAP’s recently launched projects include:
Empowering HIV-Positive Men
The MAP Program has made a dramatic entrance into India, which is currently home to the world’s largest population of HIV-positive individuals. In Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, two of India’s most populous states, the MAP Program trains HIV-positive men to educate their peers about HIV prevention. So far, more than 40 peer educators are spreading the word about male responsibility to prevent HIV transmission.
Entire communities are also being mobilized to take an active stand against HIV and AIDS. On World AIDS Day 2006, a MAP-sponsored march to promote HIV awareness in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, attracted more than 1,000 people, including local celebrities and government officials. Among the speakers at the march were HIV-positive peer educators trained by the MAP Program.
Reaching Truck Drivers in East Africa
In September 2005, EngenderHealth joined the Transportation Corridor Initiative (TCI) Roads Project, which aims to prevent HIV infection among truck drivers. Led by a consortium of international organizations, the TCI Roads Project focuses on three main transport routes in East Africa, including the heavily traveled route from Mombasa, Kenya, to Kampala, Uganda.
Due to the long periods of time they spend away from home and their high mobility, truck drivers are generally regarded as a high-risk group for HIV infection. Their desire for entertainment and female companionship, coupled with their relatively high salaries compared with the rest of the population, makes them more likely to use the services of commercial sex workers. In workshops led by MAP trainers, truck drivers are encouraged to challenge attitudes about gender that can increase the risk of HIV infection.
Local residents watch a play that explores communication within romantic relationships.
Educational Theater in Botswana and Swaziland
Botswana and Swaziland have been hit especially hard by the HIV epidemic, with more than a quarter of their populations infected with HIV. EngenderHealth South Africa is currently introducing the MAP approach to Botswana and Swaziland through thought-provoking educational theater to raise awareness about HIV.
The productions involve MAP participants at all stages, from script development to the actual performance. Young people in each country first attend a skills-building workshop to discuss and challenge their own attitudes about gender. They then write a theater piece that integrates their own lessons about HIV and violence against women. Following the workshop, they perform for various communities throughout Botswana and Swaziland, constantly evaluating and refining the drama to best communicate their message.
Leading a Global Movement
EngenderHealth is one of the founding members of MenEngage, a global alliance committed to research, interventions, and policy initiatives that engage men and boys to reduce gender inequalities and promote the health and well-being of women, men, and children. Established in 2006, MenEngage also includes several major international organizations, such as Instituto Promundo (Brazil), Save the Children–Sweden, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as well as local and national groups.
MenEngage is currently building membership networks in five regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia, Europe, and North America. Two meetings have been held, one in Dar-es-Salaam (for African organizations) and one in Kathmandu (for Asian organizations), at which regional and country-wide professional networks were established. A similar meeting in Latin America is scheduled for summer 2007.
MenEngage has already attracted considerable attention in the international community. At the meeting in Kathmandu, MenEngage was invited to partner with the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women on a five-year campaign to end gender-based violence in South Asia.
Demonstrated Effectiveness, Continued Expansion
In recent years, evidence has mounted that programs such as MAP are effective in transforming attitudes and behaviors. The World Health Organization recently published an evaluation of 57 different programs showing their meaningful impact on public health. Identifying more than two-thirds of the programs as either promising or effective, the report is the first large-scale analysis showing the value of working with men and boys.
EngenderHealth’s contributions to the report include the success of its MAP Programs in Nepal and South Africa. The MAP Program in Nepal (led by the ACQUIRE Project, of which EngenderHealth is managing partner) is addressing high rates of maternal mortality by training peer educators to teach other men about pregnancy complications and the need for obstetric care. As a result, communities in Nepal have shown an increase in contraceptive use, an increase in the number of men who have accompanied their wives to clinic appointments, and an improvement in men’s knowledge of and attitudes toward their pregnant wives’ health needs.
|Soweto, South Africa:
Men participate in a MAP workshop to prevent gender-based violence and HIV infection.
Dramatic indications of success have also emerged from South Africa’s MAP Program. A rigorous evaluation of men who participated in MAP workshops in Western Cape Province revealed that such interventions translate into measurable changes in their attitudes. Most MAP participants (71%) believed that women should have the same rights as men, compared with only 25% of men who did not participate in MAP activities, and 82% of the MAP participants thought that it was abnormal for men to sometimes beat their wives, compared with 38% of men who did not participate in the MAP program.
Building on these accomplishments, the MAP Program continues to thrive and innovate, with plans to expand to Ethiopia, Namibia, and Tanzania soon. As one MAP advocate says, “We’re on a forward journey from which there is no looking back. For me, this is a mission that gives me the strength to survive and a future to look forward to.”