30th June 2005
Family planning: Men speak out

By Edris Kiggundu

Family is about two people - man and woman; and if the children come along, they complete the picture.
In developing countries like Uganda, modern family planning awareness is low and still wrapped in mystery.

A report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute on reducing unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion in Uganda says lack of support by a spouse or partner contributes to low levels of contraceptive use among women. Couples rarely discuss family planning and men believe that women are responsible for family planning, while some husbands prevent their wives from using contraception.

Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa – seven children per woman. With increasing pressure to cater for the family, men are increasingly getting concerned and involved in family planning.

“We have to get involved in family planning. We are facing economic hardships and, as a man, I need to sit down and plan with my wife how many children we should have,” says Stephen Kiregeya, 30, a Kampala executive and father of one.
Kiregeya suggests that men get involved by taking keen interest in all antenatal activities.

“Some men don’t know what women go through before they give birth. I believe if men knew the pain women go through before and during birth, they would take the lead in advocating for family planning,” he said.

The Guttmacher report notes that although family planning efforts here have mostly targeted women, many men share their wives’ desire for smaller families.

Paul Kaweesi, 26, a boda boda cyclist along Parliamentary Avenue, says that while a woman bears the children, the father must fend for them.

“You have to tell your wife about the need for family planning,” says Kaweesi. “That is why we must be involved at every level.”

However, he has heard about side effects of family planning pills and will not allow his wife to use them, advising men instead to use condoms.

Early this year, Women’s Edition, a programme coordinated by the Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (a leader in providing timely and objective information on American and international population trends and their implications) organised a workshop for female journalists on how to get men involved in reproductive health issues.

“We want to see a positive trend where men get more involved in reproductive health issues and change their attitudes,” said Population Reference Bureau (PRB) Media Programmes Manager Deborah Mesce.

Ford Arinaitwe, 38, an accountant, consults with his wife closely regarding family planning. He says that if suitable methods like male pills were developed, he would be willing to try them out but hates vasectomy because it is ‘not reversible’.

Many men are also still reluctant to accompany their partners in the labour ward during birth.
“I wouldn’t,” says Chandiga Lawrence, 36, a security guard at Crested Towers in Kampala. He says that the labour wards are congested with many women giving birth and “this is not a pleasant sight”.

Abdul Kisubi, 41, a fruit vendor in Wandegeya market and a father of five children however thinks there is no problem accompanying his wife to the labour ward.

He said: “If my wife asked me to accompany her to the hospital, I would oblige. But she has never asked me.”
The report says programmes must involve men and encourage them to support women in their use of modern contraception – by setting up services that are male friendly and that encourage men to accompany their partners.

In the mean time, the average Ugandan man remains either hostile to or ambivalent about family planning – for various reasons.

“If we produce few children where shall we get heirs?” said 47-year old Samuel Kasato, a banker.