Gender Inequality and Maternal Deaths
Male participation in reproductive health has proved challenging in countries where there are culturally defined gender roles and where manifestations of masculinity involve violence against women, alcohol consumption, and high-risk sexual behaviour, according to Onyango et al (2010).
Aside creating an uneven playing field for women in various spheres of life, gender inequality has far reaching consequences such as influencing maternal, neonatal and child health outcomes, sometimes leading to deaths. This is evident in women’s inability to make crucial decisions and have access to financial control of very important issues pertaining to their health needs and life choices. The power to make decisions in the household is often the sole preserve of the ‘man of the house’, who has the option of consulting his wife on issues based on his discretion. This has proved to be inimical to the fight against maternal and neonatal deaths, such that, the decision to go for professional healthcare and access to balanced nutritional meals remains a challenge for pregnant women and new mothers in Ghana.
In an effort to tackle gender inequality, Savana Signatures, a Non-Governmental Organization working in Maternal and Child Health across five regions of Ghana has embedded a gender strategy called the ‘Father-to-Father Groups’ into the larger Global Affairs Canada funded Technology for Maternal and Child Health (T4MCH) project they are currently implementing to involve men.
Since 2018, health staff in the project communities have been equipped with the skills to mobilize and engage men using a facilitator’s guide called the “Father’s Journey” manual which uses behaviour change methodologies to drive them toward transformational behaviour and attitudes that will improve their interaction with their spouses. Through the project 78 Father-to-Father Groups have so far been formed across nine districts.
Eric Anaba, MEAL manager for Savana Signatures’ T4MCH project was of the view that the strategy was necessitated by the need to protect the rights of women in an inclusive manner by engaging men. Stating, “we have made it a project priority to engage men if we want to reduce the maternal mortalities in Ghana”. He adds that the purpose of the Father-to-Father Groups are to influence existing gender relations and increase men’s awareness of the existence of gender inequalities and how these contribute to maternal mortalities.
According to Elikem Agbenyo, T4MCH Father-to-Father groups coordinator, the over 728 men reached since 2018 now better appreciate gender roles and the peculiar case of gender inequalities in the household and how they can support their partners to have better health outcomes.
Dinaase Daniel, a beneficiary from Kalba, in the Sawla Tuna Kalba district, shared his experience, saying, “I used to be the sole decision maker in the house, but after participating in the Father-to-Father group meetings, I realized it is better to hear the views of my wife as well to make the best decisions for the family.” He alluded to his shortcomings both as a husband and a father because of the negative atmosphere the power imbalance had created in his home. Daniel is now very involved with his children, making personally sure that they have eaten and bathed each day, a task he previously thought to be the responsibility of his wife.
During other interviews with men from communities in the Oti, North-East, Northern and Upper West regions of Ghana, similar sentiments were expressed. Thus buttressed the point that, behaviour change strategies can go a long way to positively influence the toxic masculinity that has nurtured negative attitudes of men towards maternal and child health in Ghana.
Emmanuel Maaweh Tanga
Communication for Dev't Professional
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."