Men and Boys in Mozambique for Gender Equality

By: Celma Elizabeth Menezes, Fanelo ya Mina

“O meu pai cuida. Tu és o meu papá” (My dad cares. You are my father) and Atenção: Homem em serviço cuidando do bebé (Beware: man at service taking care of the child) are the name of two concurrent initiatives seeking to address positive engagement of men in Fatherhood, Careviging and SRH (Sexual and Reproductive Health) as we are celebrating child's month. These “male friendly” campaigns targeting mostly Mozambican semi-urban men, have the following specific objectives:

  1. Challenge Mozambican societal stereotypes that assign the caring of children as a mostly women dominated role thus reinforcing the “incapacity” of men to care for their children, their spouses and themselves;
  2. Promote recognition and support for the positive role that father figures (both biological and non-biological) can play in children's lives; away from attitudes and behaviors that lead to further gender inequality gap;
  3. Enable men to understand the benefits, the gains of more equitative behaviors and balanced attitudes towards their kids, their spouses and their personal lives as well;
  4. Advocate for laws, policies and public services to encourage and enable fathers and male mentors to invest more of their time and energy in the direct care of children thus helping creating an institutional environment that can enable the occurrence of a more balanced and healthy attitudes & behaviors from men away from the “hegemonic” dominant type of masculinity.

Fanelo Ya Mina believe that these new practices would relieve women from the responsibility of being sole caregivers and give them an opportunity to pursue other personal and professional interests. In addition, it would increase  men’s accountability for their own health, HIV and GBV prevention, and uptake of SRH services by enabling them to facilitate access into reproductive healthcare for females, and to participate in contraceptive decision-making process alongside their female counterparts. It would finally  raise men’s and society’s awareness about the value of men positive engagement in responsible fatherhood role “from the beginning" across several critical areas for child's development (e.g: nutrition, education, maintenance fee, registration, etc.).

These all-encompassing “male friendly” campaigns comprise 19 posters on critical topics around child’s care and women’s well-being in which men play a critical interchangeable role for gender equality. Specific topics include:
Child, early and forced marriages;

  1. Pre-natal, delivery and post-natal care;
  2. Longer paternity leave for men;
  3. Child’s protection rights including birth registration;
  4. Gender based violence;
  5. Gender Inequality;
  6. Child’s Mal-nutrition due to harmful social practices;
  7. Child’s education;
  8. Men’s health (including HIV prevention, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting drugs);
  9. Car accidents due to heavy drinking and careless driving;
  10. The full campaign materials package include Posters, Key holders, Bottle-Openers, Badges, T-shirts and Stickers.

Some of the rationale and justification of this effort (Why engaging with men and boys is important)

  • Rigid gender norms of what it means to be a man or a woman can often discourage men from accessing health services, such as HIV prevention, treatment and support initiatives; challenging violence against women and children; supporting their partners to access health services; becoming more involved in their children’s lives. These gender norms instead often encourage some men to engage in a variety of high-risk, negative and violent behavior patterns.i It has become increasingly clear that it is vital to engage men and boys around these issues, as such behavior patterns increase the vulnerability of both men and women to HIV infection, other diseases and health problems;ii. expose women, children to violence; serve as a barrier to women accessing their basic human rights; and damage relationships between men and women and between parents and their children. Work with men and boys are therefore integral to addressing gender inequalities, strengthening human rights and improving the health and well-being of both men and women.iii.

Gender inequalities make women and girls more vulnerable to contracting HIV and leave them with an unfair and debilitating burden of caring for those who are ill, as well as for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Engaging men in gender equality therefore directly impacts on the spread and effects of HIV and AIDS. Rigid gender norms also increase men’s vulnerability to HIV by encouraging men to equate manhood with risk-taking and the pursuit of multiple sexual partners; and impact negatively their health seeking behaviour, making it less likely that they will access critical services such as testing, treatment and psycho-social support.

Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
GBV not only results in ill health, but also contributes to the spread of HIV. A number of male gender norms facilitate GBV, including the pressure to deal with problems through violence, the pressure to consume alcohol and the notion that it is acceptable for men to control and dominate their partners.  In order to prevent GBV, it is important to work with men and women to change the social norms fueling GBV, including providing alternative and non-violent role models for young men and boys, and supporting them to take a stand against GBV.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Across Africa, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) are largely considered a women’s domain, leaving women and girls primarily responsible for their own and their family’s sexual and reproductive health (SRH). As such, men need to be enabled to prioritize their own SRH and support their partner’s access to SRH services.  Men put themselves and their partners at risk when they do not utilize SRH services. Interventions with men and boys on SRHR have been shown to effectively increase men’s support for their partner’s SRH and to improve the health of men, women and children.

Responsible fatherhood is essential for the development of children and for building families and societies that better reflect gender equity and protect children’s rights. Around the world, work that relates to caregiving remains dominated by females. This places a great burden on women, and also perpetuates norms about the capacity of men to care for themselves and for others. Fathering and caregiving roles need to be strengthened and men need to be supported and enabled to achieve this. Additionally, legal sanctions should be strengthened and optimally implemented to hold parents, who have the means to maintain their children, accountable for failing to deliver on their maintenance obligations.

Additional rationale and justification:

  • HIV prevalence among young women versus young men (those aged 15–24) in Mozambique in 2009 was almost 3 to 1, showing an epidemic with gendered outcomes. By the time girls are 15, over 12.2%of girls have had their first baby.
  • In addition, Mozambique has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world (an estimated rate of 490 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to figures from WHO); unsafe abortions accounting for 11% of these deaths.
  • Lack of education and financial inequalities between men and women mean that women often lack the power to control their Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH).
  • In Mozambique, women are overwhelmingly and despoportialy responsible for caregiving and SRH.
  • Girls rights are often violated due to issues related to their reproductive biology such as early marriage, early pregnancy and HIV and AIDS. In fact one of the major obstacle that undermines girl’s child chances of future career advancement is early and forced marriages. In Mozambique, 52% of girls marry before the age of 18, ranking the country in the 7th highest worldwide position.
  • Gender based violence (including sexual violence) is another pressing issue. Local data bears this out, as a survey conducted by INJAD states that 26% of boys and girls replied that men have the right to hit their partners if their partners refuse to have sex with them.
  • The unchallenged occurrence of sexual violence can be highly disruptive to a girls’ educational career. Left unchecked, this violence can have a negative impact on the emotional needs of girls therefore becoming a barrier to attaining education; and the future prospects of higher social and economic status in adulthood.

Despite acknowledgment of the intersections of the above mentioned problems and the power relations deeply entrenched on them, existing country efforts seeking to address the plight of women and girls very often fail to address the gender dimensions as a strategy for promoting children’s rights; empowering women and girls; nor the engagement of men in the solution making process.

Origin and meaning of Fanelo Ya Mina
The decision to create the organization – Fanelo Ya Mina – which means “It Is My Duty” was based on the interactions Miss Celma Elizabeth Menezes had with several African women from a vast spectrum of society and all walks of life who gracefully shared with her the true values of a holistic and meaningful life lived in accordance with the principles of love, kindness, honesty and self-love. Having benefited from a modestly-privileged upbringing, Miss Menezes believed that the knowledge and wisdom she gained from the interactions with these outstanding common women, gave her the inspiration to help empower and assist other women in the fight for gender equity in all sectors of society therefore allowing them to give back to their respective communities in a more balanced and meaningful manner.

Although there is so much to be said about Fanelo Ya Mina and its scope of work, kindly visit their website and their facebook account for further information about the organization and its scope of work.

i. Jean Redpath, Robert Morrell, Rachel Jewkes & Dean  Peacock, ‘Masculinities and Public policy in South Africa: Changing masculinities and working toward gender equality’, A report by Sonke Gender Justice Network, (October 2008), p. 19; Alan Greig, with support from Dean Peacock, ‘Men for Change, Health for All: A Policy Discussion Paper on Men, Health and Gender Equity’, Prepared by Sonke Gender Justice Network, (November 2008), p.5.

ii. Alan Greig, with support from Dean Peacock, ‘Men for Change, Health for All: A Policy Discussion Paper on Men, Health and Gender Equity’, prepared by Sonke Gender Justice Network, (November 2008),p. 5; see also J. Shelton, D. Halperin, V. Nantulya, M. Potts, H. Gayle & H. Holmes, ‘Partner reduction is crucial for balanced “ABC” approach to HIV prevention’, BMJ, 328, 2004, pp.891–4; D.L. Kincaid & W. Parker, National AIDS Communication Programmes, HIV Prevention Behaviour, and HIV Infections Averted in South Africa, 2005, JHHESA, (Pretoria, 2008); S.M. Noar & P.J. Morokoff, ‘The Relationship between Masculinity Ideology, Condom Attitudes, and Condom Use Stage of Change: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach’, International Journal of Men’s Health, 1, 1, 2001; B. Magongo, S. Magwaza, V. Mathambo & N. Makhanya, National Report on the Assessment of the Public Sector’s Voluntary Counselling and Testing Program, Health Systems Trust, (Durban, 2002);  UNGASS Country Progress Report: Republic of South Africa 2007, UNGASS, (2008);  Charles Nzioka, Research on men and its implications on policy and program development in reproductive health in Programming for Male Involvement in Reproductive Health, Report on the meeting of WHO Regional Advisers in Reproductive Health, WHO/PAHO, Washington DC, USA 5-7 September 2001, World Health Organisation, (Geneva, 2002); L. Doyal, K. Hunt & S.Payne, Sex, Gender and Noncommunicable Diseases: An Overview of Issues and Recent Evidence, World Health Organisation, (Geneva, 2001).

iii. ‘Policy Approaches To Involving Men And Boys In  Achieving Gender Equality And Health Equity’, prepared by Sonke Gender Justice Network  for the Department of Gender, Women and Health, World Health Organization, (June 2010), p. 9.


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