I would love to share a story of an encounter I had recently in Wajir when I accompanied David Wright, Save the Children Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, and Chittaranjan Kuchinad, Chief People Officer, Human Resource and Culture for a field visit together with other colleagues.
I met Hajji, a man in his late 30s attending a men's baraza session at a place called Tula Tula. He caught my eyes as in his hands he held what I could clearly see is an antenatal care booklet, the kind that is given to expectant mothers attending clinic sessions. Looking around, I could see that most of the men attending the session, had similar booklets in their hands.
As soon as the meeting began, it dawned on me that this was not a normal men's baraza session, it was a meeting of men whose wives are expectant, and they were here to discuss issues on improving the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy, birth and in the first five years of a child’s life. The discussions that prevailed at the meeting made my respect for these men grow exponentially
Listening to men discuss their responsibility in promoting maternal and new born health and family planning impressed us all. The highlight was when Hajji likened the antenatal booklet to a bell that is put on an expectant camel, with the intention of ensuring the camel is always taken care of. He said: “We now know that when a woman is pregnant, it is not just her pregnancy. It is equally ours and the community’s pregnancy.”
I was amused by the commitment of Hajji, who no longer referred to his wife as pregnant, but said “we are pregnant.” He said: “We used to send our pregnant wives to bring water 4 kilometers from home, and we would wonder why they would often miscarry the pregnancy.” “At the Men’s Barraza, we discussed how to share chores with our pregnant wives and when we went to carry the water from the source, 4 km away, most of us were unable to carry as it was too far! After this experience, we were very keen to take care of the pregnant ladies in the community, beginning from our homes. This has in turn improved communication and bonding between my wife and I and my children and has reduced the number of pregnancies that do not reach full term.”
Both David and the colleagues from Save the Children couldn’t help but smile with complete admiration for these brave men. I was so touched by this initiative and couldn’t help but appreciate the effort that Save the Children has made in integrating men in maternal and child health matters…indeed a unique way to reaching Every Last Child
Asked about his experience as a first time visit, David said: “I am excited to see how the interventions in Wajir are positively changing lives despite the socio-cultural resistance one would have expected the programmes to face in the conservative Muslim society. I admire the passion and devotion from the team.”