Involving men in safe motherhood of men and women in Kafues District, Zambia

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Nakamboa, Namasiku Inonge
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In Zambia, maternal mortality rate is estimated at 649 women per 100, 000 per live births. Such deaths are not only deeply rooted in the provision of poor quality health services, but also gender in relations between men and women. Both men and women make important contributions to the production of children yet, demographic studies of fertility and family planning in the past have tended to focus on women alone. Men play important often dominant roles in decisions crucial to women's reproductive health. This study examines the levels and patterns of male participation and seeks to identify the obstacles men face in safe motherhood.The sample comprised of thirty married women and men of ages between 18 and 49 and interviewed were four medical personnel. Data were collected through focus group discussions and an in-depth discussion with medical personnel at Kafue Mission in Kafue district.The study established that the decision-making privileges are enjoyed by men and fundamentally affect women's health status. It further revealed that there was a high level of knowledge of the types of Family planning available. However, there was a discrepancy in knowledge and use of family planning methods. It was also established that lack of proper spousal communication led to the gap in men's knowledge leading to their lack of positive participation. The most prominent barriers to male involvement in maternal health included low levels of knowledge, social stigma, shyness and embarrassment and job responsibilities. Though medical personnel also foresaw some obstacles, primarily in the forms of hospital policy, manpower and space problems, they unanimously felt the option of couples-friendly maternal health services would enhance the quality of care and understanding of health information given to pregnant women, echoing attitudes expressed by most pregnant women and their husbands.However, it is widely recognized that men are often marginalized by maternal health services and are provided with limited access to basic information and knowledge to help them make informed choices and decisions in order to protect and promote their own health as well as that of their families. As a result men tend to get second hand information from their wives after they visit family planning and antenatal clinics. Due to this, it was found that information that men should know is not known to them for example risks of pregnancy and their planning for delivery.Men's participation in safe motherhood is a promising strategy for addressing some of the country's most pressing reproductive health problems. The study concludes with recommendations to service providers and agencies to include men as partners by adopting a life cycle approach which identifies and services their needs in a way that is both cultural and gender sensitive. Men, starting at an early age when they are still secondary school going children, must be targeted through education to share sexual, contraceptive and parenting responsibilities so to plan their children.
Birth Control , Planned Parenthood